Leave it to the Super Bowl-seasoned Seattle Seahawks to see this giant hole as a giant opportunity.
Seattle is two games under .500 for the first time since its last losing season.
That was 2011. Earl Thomas was in his second NFL season. The free safety hadn’t yet been selected to any of his four All-Pro and four Pro Bowl teams. Quarterback Russell Wilson was playing for the University of Wisconsin. Those Seahawks were on their way to 7-9 in a season that had none of the championship expectations this one does.
So is this — 2-4 entering Thursday’s quick turnaround game at San Francisco (2-4) — the lowest Thomas has been with the Seahawks?
“Man, this is great, really,” Thomas said Monday in a locker room that wasn’t nearly as somber and confused as it was immediately following Sunday’s 27-23 loss in the final seconds to Carolina.
“It is a part of the story. We are going to outlast this. This is why we are in this position in the first place. This is why we are the best, you know. These situations, they are not going to break us.”
Thomas, eight of the other 10 starters on this defense, plus 10 of the 11 starters on offense were on the team last season when it began 3-3 and trailed first-place Arizona by three games in the NFC West as late as Thanksgiving. That Seattle team won six straight to end the regular season, seizing the division from the Cardinals and continuing to win all the way into another Super Bowl in February.
Now, the Seahawks are comforted to know, they trail Arizona by two games for the division lead with two games still to play against the Cardinals. And it isn’t even Halloween.
Yet those 2014 Seahawks could block foes consistently in the run game and give Wilson at least some time to throw and find receivers downfield. Those Seahawks weren’t last in the NFL in touchdown rate inside the red zone (four TDs in 14 trips this season, 28.6 percent) and hadn’t gotten Wilson sacked 26 times in six games.
Those Seahawks could get a lead and then hold it in the fourth quarter — not get outscored 48-9 in the final period over a five-game span, with an offense that hasn’t put games away on third downs late and a defense that hasn’t gotten its pass coverages straight with games on the line.
That has been these 2015 Seahawks. That’s how a team with the second-ranked rushing offense and fourth-ranked overall defense in the league can be 2-4.
“I haven’t really been in this kind of situation with a really good team,” 64-year-old coach Pete Carroll said Monday, in the middle of his 19th year as a head coach for USC plus the Seahawks, Jets and Patriots. “(Not) where it felt so much different and the results are flipping in terms of some of the factors.”
One Carroll keeps talking about is turnover margin. For the second consecutive week and third time this season Seattle won the turnover margin — but lost the game.
“This,” Carroll said, “is new in that regard.”
“This” is the Seahawks having fourth-quarter leads of 24-7 at Cincinnati and 23-14 against Carolina but losing to both those undefeated teams the last two weeks. That’s why the Seahawks are 2-4 instead of 4-2.
“This” is Thomas and All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman playing different coverages on the final defensive snap Sunday. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton didn’t have to look hard to find tight end Greg Olsen uncovered deep down the hash marks for the winning, 26-yard score with 32 seconds left. Sherman thought the call was for Thomas to take Olsen’s deep route. Thomas thought the call was for Sherman to do that.
Sunday, Sherman said the call came in late enough from the sideline that he didn’t have time to ensure everyone else got the right one that he did.
Monday, Carroll said the call from defensive coordinator Kris Richard didn’t come in late.
The coach said Sunday’s middle linebacker, K.J. Wright filling in for injured Bobby Wagner, got the call through his helmet speaker in plenty of time for the other 10 defenders to get. The head man said more than half his defense, including safeties Thomas and Chancellor, simply blew it by not getting the call they had time to receive before the Panthers’ decisive snap.
“No, because they spiked the ball (on the down before to stop the clock) so it was a regular huddle opportunity,” Carroll said.
“That’s the first time I can ever remember Earl not knowing what the other guys were doing. I don’t know how that occurred. There were a couple of guys too, who, were in question of the call. I’m not exactly sure how that happened yet on the field. We know what we called and what we signaled in. K.J. got it and he started the process. It just didn’t get exchanged properly.
“It was not rushed.”
That makes the ending and loss all the more galling. And it makes Thursday’s game at the 49ers all the more imperative to win.
Carroll said he is going to summon more than the usual within himself in this short week of just two full practices.
“Everything I’ve got. Everything I’ve got,” Carroll said. “You call on everything you’ve ever known, said, done, seen to make the right choices and decisions to fit it to the people and their needs and their makeup.”
Carroll said the team is reinstating suspended fullback Derrick Coleman after he talked to him about his two-car crash last week in Bellevue.
Coleman was released from King County Jail on Friday afternoon after a day and half there. He remains under investigation on potential charges of felony vehicular assault and felony hit-and-run.
Carroll said the team knows enough from Coleman to believe it is doing the right thing reinstating him.
Seahawks team doctors will now examine him to confirm the player’s report to police he wasn’t injured in the crash. It left the other driver hospitalized with “serious but not life-threatening injuries,” according to the Bellevue police chief.
After that team doctor sees Coleman the Seahawks will know if he can play Thursday.
Carroll said the team is “pretty hopeful” Wagner (strained pectoral) will play Thursday. Had he played against Carolina, the coach said, Wagner definitely would not be able to play at San Francisco. … C Patrick Lewis had MRIs on his ankle and knee, putting his status in doubt for Thursday. If he can’t go following his first start of the season against Carolina, Drew Nowak returns to center by default. … Carroll said WR/KR/PR Tyler Lockett banged his hip. His status for Thursday isn’t immediately known. … RT Garry Gilliam has a sore ankle “that we’ve got to tend to,” Carroll said.
THURSDAY: Seattle (2-4) at San Francisco (2-4), 5:25 p.m., Ch. 7, 710-AM, 97.3-FM