The Seahawks lost for the second time this season, falling to the Bengals on Sunday to end a three-game winning streak.
But in the visitors' locker room at Paycor Stadium, and in Pete Carroll's and players' postgame press conferences, there was not a sense of doom or concerns that the team is heading in the wrong direction following a 17-13 loss.
Yes, Carroll and his players were obviously disappointed about the game, particularly because they had so many chances to take the lead in the second half, but managed just a single field goal on four trips inside the 10-yard line in the half. But with the defense playing, as Carroll put it, “about as good as we’ve played, at any time,” and with the offense still moving the ball well against a good defense, aside from the those glaring red zone issues, and with the two starters still missing from the offensive line, the team got back to work with meetings on Monday feeling like they are still set up for success moving forward.
"Heading out on the road again and playing a whole 60 minutes of football, tough right from the beginning, being ready to go and playing all the way until the end," Carroll said. "We were playing to win the game the whole way, and we just didn't get it done. But that, plus seeing the defense plays such a solid football game against such a good offense, a good group of receivers, the QB, the play caller, the whole thing. To see us play against that style that we have a lot of respect for, and play so well—and we got better as the game went on—those are really good characteristics. Unfortunately, we didn't win the game. We had so many ways to win the football game, so many ways to score and opportunities that got squandered. But there were just a lot of positives moving forward. I wasn't thinking positive thoughts in my head, I just was pleased that we made it so hard on them because we played so tough."
The feeling after this loss was significantly different than the one following a season-opening home loss to the Rams in which the Seahawks were outscored 23-0 in the second half. That result came with a lot of concerns, most of which were answered in the following weeks with the Seahawks winning three straight, and even after a loss in Cincinnati, Carroll was feeling good about his team a day later.
"The opener was pretty shocking that we played so poorly in the second half," Carroll said when asked to contrast the two losses this season. "Everybody was disappointed and surprised and couldn't make sense of it. But now, when you stack some weeks together with real consistency in our effort and involvement, and everybody's commitment to it, even when you get disappointed with a loss like this, they're still seeing the future. They're still seeing where we're going and where we can go, so the hope is still there to put together a terrific season one week at a time. You can feel that, there's a confidence that has come from that. The uncertainty from the first game was left behind in Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4 we just built on it. So here we are again, tough situation, good team, respected squad, and the game was so obvious. It was so obvious, we just needed to catch one more ball, run one more ball in and we win the football game. Everybody's pretty clear on that."
As Carroll mentioned, the defense was the biggest reason for optimism, with the Bengals managing just 76 yards, five first downs and a single field goal—which was set up by a turnover—over their final eight possessions after they found the end zone on their first two drives.
Particularly encouraging was the play of the secondary, which was at full strength, or close to it, for the first time this season after missing Jamal Adams for three games and most of a fourth, Riq Woolen for one game, Devon Witherspoon for one game, and Tre Brown for one game and most of a second. That unit, along with a pass rush that added three more sacks, limited the Bengals passing attack to 168 yards and just two explosive plays one week after Joe Burrow threw for 317 yards and three scores, with Ja'Marr Chase catching a franchise-record 15 passes for 192 yards and three scores. Chase still had a few good moments against Seattle a week later, but was held to six catches on 13 targets for 80 yards and no scores.
"I was really impressed," Carroll said of his secondary. "Coming off the week before when (the Bengals) had looked so good, Joe looked like he was fully back and had a big productive day, they had the numbers and record with Ja'Marr Chase. He had great game and looked like a fantastic football player. Our guys' attention was on it. They were up for the challenge, they went about it with a really good mentality across the board. Everybody played well, everybody contributed. We matched up fine, we were able to hold those guys down, hold them to a couple hundred yards passing—that's pretty unusual that you could do that. We tackled them well, we held on to the deep ball stuff that they threw at us, and we did a nice job in a lot of areas. I thought everybody contributed. They were well aware of the challenge they were up against, and they met it with a good performance."
The Seahawks escaped the game without significant injury, Carroll said Sunday, but were dealing with some injuries that affected their offensive line play. Phil Haynes, who missed Seattle's Week 3 game with a calf injury, then played in Week 4, only to leave that game early, did make it through the game this time, but wasn't 100 percent. Right tackle Jake Curhan, meanwhile, injured his ankle early in the game and played through it.
"Jake got wrapped up kinda early in the game," Carroll said. "He was able to finish the game. He's hobbling a little bit today, we'll see how he does. Phil made it through the game. Phil just made it through practice all week long. He had some chances where he would like to have dug in a little bit deeper and been able to held his ground a little more so where he really couldn't load up. It hurt him a couple of times on some sets. There was a little price to pay for those guys playing under those circumstances, and unfortunately it was more than we could handle."
Jamal Adams, meanwhile, got through his first full game in more than a year feeling good. He played 85 percent of Seattle's defensive snaps, which Carroll said was a bit more than planned, but had no issues with that workload, and should be ready for even more going forward.
"He made it through it and handled it well," Carroll said. "He'll be ready to play a full game from this point forward. We'll still mix our stuff, but he's ready now."
Check out some of the best action shots from Week 6 at the Bengals at Paycor Stadium on October 15, 2023. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery. This gallery will be updated throughout the game.