Pete Carroll seemed to realize how foreign the words sounded before he even finished the answer.
He was asked about the importance of winning in Dallas so his Seattle Seahawks could rise to 4-4 at the midpoint of the season.
He felt horrible, he said, that they’re so deep into the season and they’re still trying to get to .500. It was time to make a big push.
Carroll sounded almost apologetic.
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Wait, that’s not the attitude he’s fostered during the team’s streak of dominance. They’ve been brash and audacious, with a champion’s mindset and mannerisms.
After all, Carroll titled his book “Win Forever,” not “Let’s Get Up To Average.”
So, at the podium during a press conference, Carroll kind of mocked the whole notion with a faint fist pump: “It’s not like the battle cry, like ‘Let’s get to .500.’ (That’s) not really the way we talk.”
But during their 3-4 start, there’s been a lot about Seattle that has been just a little different. And to fall to 3-5 at Dallas would alter the way everybody talks about the Seahawks.
With a bye the following week, consider the psychology of the two-time NFC champions having to chew on the taste of another loss for two weeks.
They wouldn’t be mathematically out of it, but considered massive underachievers given the level of talent on hand.
This has been a strong-minded and focused team through a series of distractions. But it doesn’t take too many guys on the team to slip into phone-in mode before it can get ugly.
Defensive end Michael Bennett, more candid than just about anybody in the league, put his finger on it perfectly this week: “For me, I feel like, when you go to the Super Bowl twice, anything less than getting back to the championship is a waste of time.”
Repeated success, Bennett said, “can turn into a drug … you want a little more, then you want a little more.”
Falling to 3-5 would be a dose of grim reality, and cause a painful withdrawal from addictive success.
Second-half resurgences have been the norm, as Seattle’s gone 7-1, 6-2 and 7-1 after midseason the past three years, triggering two runs to the Super Bowl.
But we need to go back to the 2011 season to see how the Seahawks made it all happen. Because it provides the blueprint for how it can best happen again. It started in Dallas that time, too.
When the Seahawks went to Dallas for a Nov. 6 game, they had lost consecutively to Cleveland (Marshawn Lynch was out with a sore back) and Cincinnati. They would lose to the Cowboys that day, too, to fall to 2-6.
For me, I feel like, when you go to the Super Bowl twice, anything less than getting back to the championship is a waste of time.
Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett
But they adopted an approach that would change the future of the team.
Lynch had been with the team more than a year after coming over from Buffalo. It’s hard to believe, now, but he’d never rushed for more than 100 yards in 18 regular-season games for the Hawks.
Before that Dallas game, Lynch was an underutilized weapon, averaging just 12.3 carries a game. That day, he got 23 rushes for 135 yards. Tarvaris Jackson threw three interceptions in the game and the Seahawks fell 23-13.
But in the eight following games, Lynch carried the ball 23.5 times a game — almost doubling his attempts, and had five 100-plus-yard rushing games.
Lynch had been dealing with a balky hamstring this season, missing two games and never registering more than 18 carries a game this season. But on Thursday night at San Francisco, he picked up 122 yards on 27 rushes.
On many of those carries, quarterback Russell Wilson took the ball from under center and handed it to Lynch in the conventional tailback position.
Carroll calls it running “downhill” and it’s the key to keeping the season from continuing to go downhill.
“It just pushes the line of scrimmage the way we like and all the (play-action) passes fit off of that,” Carroll said. “It’s always been the core of our run game.
Not always. They’d gotten away from that. But it’s what helped them turn things around in Dallas four years ago.
And it’s what can help them do it again.