SEATTLE - Rising from the silence and heartbreak in the locker room after Saturday’s crushing 19-17 defeat, Pete Carroll’s soothing words were salve for his players.
“You guys are awesome,” the head coach said to start his postgame speech, just minutes after the Seahawks had narrowly fallen to the 49ers at CenturyLink Field. “I’m so proud of you guys. You guys are so ridiculously tough.
“You would not back down. You were doing exactly what we need to do.”
The kind — and truthful — words did little to counteract the downcast faces and downtrodden spirits in Seattle’s locker room on Christmas Eve. But the message did continue to set and encourage the Seahawks in the right direction toward a future so packed with hope.
So even though Saturday’s loss eliminated the Seahawks from playoff contention and removed a chance for a winning record in 2011, the team showed loads of progress and tons of positive momentum toward 2012 and beyond.
“We’ve come a million miles,” Carroll told his players. “We’ve become a team, and we’re going to be a great team for a long time.”
And that’s reason enough to feel better about Saturday, this season as a whole and the direction this team is heading. This weekend, the Seahawks hung with and nearly beat one of the NFL’s premier squads, one that Carroll called “a hell of a football team.” This season, Seattle has flipped a 2-6 start to be in position to climb to .500 and head into the offseason with six wins in their last eight games. And into the future, the Seahawks are moving toward something great, as they got glimpses of their promising horizon during the second half of this season.
Wins over Baltimore, Chicago and Philadelphia highlighted the late-season surge that will surely carry on into next season — in part because of the youth-laden talent on the club but more importantly because Carroll’s philosophies have taken root and begun to flourish in the Seahawks locker room and on the field on gamedays.
But for now, the attention turns to Sunday, one last game for Seattle to continue to stoke the fire of positive momentum. As evidenced by the last 7 weeks, finishing strong is a point of emphasis for Carroll, who’s renowned for saying “how you finish makes a statement about who you are.”
“We have one last week to get right,” Carroll told his team on Saturday night. “Let’s hang tight — you’ve been tight all year. Let’s finish this right.”
One final game in 2011. One final opportunity to get another late-season win. One final chance to keep turning the Seahawks in the right direction.
“We will not back down,” Carroll said. “We’re going to keep bringing it.”