Dave Boling

Dave Boling: Unknown territory demands new approaches for Seahawks

Seahawks safety Earl Thomas breaks up a pass intended for Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess on Sunday. The Seattle defense has struggled mightily in the fourth quarter this season, giving up 55 points in just six games.
Seahawks safety Earl Thomas breaks up a pass intended for Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess on Sunday. The Seattle defense has struggled mightily in the fourth quarter this season, giving up 55 points in just six games. Staff photographer

RENTON — Since I couldn’t find a Suggestion Box at the Seahawks headquarters, I’ll jot a few hints here.

No charge. Happy to help.

First, a couple things about rethinking a few of the teaching models that have been so successful the past three seasons.

Pete Carroll has lifted this team and this franchise, at times with ground-breaking philosophies, and inspiring motivation. I’ve applauded his efforts for finding new ways to reach players in a traditionally hide-bound environment.

But teams change. Players change, and sometimes the message stops resonating.

Carroll said Monday that trying to stay aware of their circumstances is one of the big challenges.

I wonder if it’s time to pull back on the preaching about how the Hawks can always win the game in the fourth quarter. A series of blown leads late in games hints that maybe they’ve got some kind of false sense of security. They’ve been vulnerable rather than invincible.

This season, they haven’t closed the deal. If anything, they’ve been reminded that they can habitually lose games in the fourth quarter. Opponents have scored 55 points in the fourth period of the first six games. Last season, they had only 67 points in the final 15 minutes of all 16 games.

Carroll loves to tell the Seahawks that “it’s all about the ball.” Ball possession is such a theme that they focus on forcing and protecting against turnovers every week in a day titled: Turnover Thursday.

It’s always made sense, and been supported by the statistics (33-9 when holding the edge since 2010). But now, it’s not about the ball, it’s about moving it and stopping the other guys from moving it. In three of their four losses, they’ve been on the positive side of the turnover/takeaway numbers.

Here’s what nullifies advantages in the turnover figures: Converting only 37 percent of third-down opportunities (down from 42.5 last season). They’ve gotten a first down just once in seven third-down tries in the fourth quarter of the past two games.

A number of Seahawks said that they’ve struggled before and always came out of it. They will this time, too, they said. Based on that history. I wrote that the Hawks would have a strong game Sunday, even their record and rally back into contention.

But those were other teams. Most of the same guys. But they fit together differently. They operated differently. And they lost again.

Several players have said they know they’re better than they’ve shown this season. Yes, absolutely. The talent is there. And the play for most parts of the past two games has been up to or near the level that took them to championships.

But not the whole game. And that leaves them deserving of the 2-4 record.

The Hawks love to start bouncing around and getting fired up whenever the PA plays the song that redundantly insists “These haters can’t hold us back.”

Maybe they should bag that tradition, too, because this season, the haters are doing pretty well. Every team the Seahawks play is geeked about the chance to face the two-time NFC champions — especially since the Hawks were never particularly humble on their way to the top.

“We’re seeing other teams really elevate and out-do us at the end,” Carroll said Monday.

Maybe they sniff vulnerability. They saw it in the Super Bowl. They saw it in the first two games of the season. Now, every team they face is especially driven to dump Seattle.

Carroll on Monday seemed concerned and committed, but not desperate.

“I’m totally convinced these guys are going to go for it and stay with it,” Carroll said. “That’s all they know.”

That is what they’ve known. But this is a different team, facing a lot of situations that have been unknown in the past few seasons.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440

dave.boling@thenewstribune.com

@DaveBoling

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