The football stuff will be the easiest to fix. Getting the Seahawks’ minds right could be the biggest challenge now.
The Seahawks didn’t lose their second game until December last season, so being 3-2 this early is an unaccustomed – and obviously frustrating – situation.
From here, it’s on the coaches to get them headed in the right direction, to funnel the frustration into motivation rather than dissension.
Coach Pete Carroll made it clear Monday as he addressed the 30-23 loss to Dallas that fingers of blame should be directed his way.
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“I feel I did not do a good job taking them through this week,” he said of the team’s response to a sloppy win over Washington the previous Monday. “I told them I felt bad that I didn’t get it orchestrated enough that we would clean that stuff up.”
The Seahawks, in some ways, were unrecognizable on Sunday in losing for just the second time at home in 21 games.
The offense has gotten away from the pound-the-ball mentality that led them to success.
On defense, the tackling was erratic as injuries created concerns about depth and manpower.
There is no question that all possibilities remain. The two losses are to 5-1 teams – San Diego and Dallas – and they have beaten 4-1 Denver and 4-2 Green Bay.
They still have all their division games on the docket, and it’s fair to remember that they were 3-2 at this point in the 2005 season when they went to the Super Bowl.
And the talent, definitely, is still there to be a championship team.
But, whoa ... they didn’t look much like it at times on Sunday.
Several players talked about the team’s mindset not being what it’s been in the past.
The defense has lived by the motto “fast and physical,” but it wasn’t physical enough to stop running back DeMarco Murray nor fast enough to get to quarterback Tony Romo when he was standing in the pocket.
The offense under Carroll has always been about a bludgeoning, downhill running attack. But through five games, the Hawks are 32 rushing attempts behind last year’s pace, and Marshawn Lynch has 17 fewer carries.
And now they have back-to-back road games, at St. Louis and Carolina. Both have rugged defenses that have caused the Seahawks troubles. Seattle barely beat the Rams twice last season, and have won two consecutive at Carolina, but only scored 12 and 16 points in the process.
“We have to do a better job this week and really zero in; we’re playing a very difficult team in the Rams,” Carroll said. “We just have to get better, and there’s a lot of room for improvement. The coaches are all over that.”
They better be, given the way opponents have marshaled their resources every week.
Aside from faulty execution at times, some of the play calling and personnel usage has been curious. And the defense, while dealing with injury problems, has shown a scheme or two that’s been exploited.
Statistically, the most stunning number is the 99.9 passer rating by opposing quarterbacks, 36 points higher than their effort last season. Yes, they’ve played a string of top-flight quarterbacks, but that’s a marked departure.
Frustration has worked for the Seahawks in the past. When the team fell to 2-6 early in 2011, having lost 23-13 at Dallas, Carroll and line coach Tom Cable got together and decided that if they were going to lose, they at least were going to do it the way they wanted – by focusing on the run.
The next week, they went out and pounded the ball against a great Baltimore defense and scored a 22-17 win that was the springboard to winning five of the next six games. The approach took them to 11-5 the next season and to the Super Bowl in 2013.
Players were griping on the sideline and in the locker room Sunday. Carroll said that’s what happens when competitive guys aren’t winning.
I’d say the players are out of sorts because they’re not playing the kind of game they’re used to. The kind of game that made them champions. And, when all the frustration goes too far, it’s the kind of thing that can knock a juggernaut off the rails.
Carroll and his staff have to get control of that before they hit the road the next two games. And the first step is remembering who they are.