The Seahawks played significantly better Thursday, particularly on offense, than they had in their previous two games.
The Seahawks also lost on Thursday, falling 41-35 to a very good Cowboys team, Seattle's third consecutive loss.
Both of those things can be true at the same time for the Seahawks, and for Pete Carroll, the key is to focus on the improvements and build on those rather than dwell on the fact that his team has fallen to 6-6 with the three consecutive losses.
"I'm going with the stuff that takes us forward rather than takes us back," Carroll said. "I thought we played a fantastic night of football with all of the challenges that come along with that. We didn't make all the plays, we didn't make all the right calls, but it was a great football game, and it was a great night to win. It was just a great night for us to be on the road and take it. It was just like the Detroit game to me, as we referenced that one during this week, it was the same setting for us. It was that opportunity, we last play the game (against Detroit), and we needed to do that again on this night to get it. It goes back to the last couple of games, we make a kick and win on the last play the game, and we miss a kick to win on the last play game. That's how that's how tight it is and how competitive it is. Last night was an amazing event, it was hard and challenging and tough, and it ain't getting any easier, so we see all that. So there's a lot going on here."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Seahawks will feel like there's plenty to clean up, though it is hard to make a good judgement about a performance that included so many drive-extending penalties called against the defense. On offense, however, there was a lot to love from a unit that produced five touchdowns and went 4 for 4 in the red zone after failing to score an offensive touchdown in the previous seven quarters following an opening-drive touchdown in a Week 11 loss to the Rams. A full week of preparation with a healthy Geno Smith made a big difference, Carroll noted, compared to a week ago when Seattle faced the 49ers on a short week and with Smith barely able to practice due to a triceps contusion.
"The week's preparation coming off the mess before, where we couldn't practice and with Geno and all of that stuff, everybody was really focused in on it," Carroll said. "I thought that Shane (Waldron) was clear about what he was trying to do to attack these guys, and the players understood it. We knew we needed to run the ball like we did to set up the stuff that we needed to throw, and it fit. Guys came through and made their plays. Tremendous execution on throwing and catching."
And yet, a great offensive day wasn't quite enough because the Seahawks couldn't get that last score they needed, with the Cowboys coming up with fourth-down stops on three straight fourth-quarter Seahawks possessions.
"At the end of the game, when we needed to get our finish, we needed to deal with the protection better, and we got rushed and we didn't handle it," Carroll said. "We just weren't quite sharp enough to pull it off, and they had something to do with that. They're really good. We made a top-five or top-three defense in the NFL struggle. We were moving the football on a really good team. It's a good recognition for us, and we need to get it together and get it cranked up for another one.
"We were totally equal to the task of it, we just needed to finish it. We just needed one more drive to finish the game, and we win the football game. I think everybody realizes that. It's the contrast from last week that is startling. We played such a poor game the week before, Thursday prep, and I told you why that happened. We didn't prepare well with our guys, and we weren't ready as we were with this one. We were ready to go and cranked. We had a great week's preparation. We practiced the right way; we worked the right way. Everything fit together, and we gave ourselves a chance to play in a great setting, and all but win it."
Up next for the Seahawks is another tough challenge with a trip to the Bay Area to face the 49ers, then a Monday night home game against the Eagles. This gauntlet of the NFC's top teams has so far proven tough for the Seahawks, but Carroll is convinced it will help the team come playoff time, should they be able to make it in, and he's confident they will, so much so that he said earlier in the day on his weekly show Seattle Sports 710AM. "When this team makes it in the playoffs, which you may think I'm freakin' crazy to be telling you, but when this team makes it to the playoffs, we will be ready. We will have been through all of it. We will have seen everything you can see, we will have toughed our way through it, we will have learned the lessons, we will be as ready as you could possibly get. I'd kind of like to see what that's going to be like. I'm looking forward to that."
Asked later in his press conference about those comments and his confidence in the Seahawks being in the playoffs despite a 6-6 record with some tough games coming up, Carroll said, "I just believe we're of that caliber. We have to find our way through it and get there. I don't know that there's enough games, maybe there aren't, maybe we run out of games, I don't know. But we're going to have to make some big noise here in the next couple of weeks, then we've got to just keep on going. We will be hardened, we will be competitively battlefield tested as well as you can be prepared, and I think all of that will add to it if we keep growing with it, if we keep taking the proper steps forward, that's the way I'm seeing it. It's only one shot at a time, but a month from now, we will have been through everything that you can go through in preparation for a playoff opportunity. Now, whether we have enough wins, I don't know. We'll see what happens, see how it goes."
The Seahawks had two players exit Thursday's game due to injury, running back Zach Charbonnet, who bruised his knee, and linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who exited the game with an ankle injury.
Because the team didn't arrive back to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center until about 4 a.m. Friday, players had not yet been in for treatment by the time Carroll spoke to the media, so he didn't have a lot of specifics to offer on those injuries.
Carroll said of Brooks, "It's an ankle sprain. I don't know what type of ankle sprain it is."
Charbonnet, meanwhile, "Banged his knee on the turf and it blew up on him, so he had pretty good swelling last night where he couldn't go. But that's not an intricate knee injury situation, we've just got to get through it. Treatment will take care of that, and the extra days will help us a good deal with both those guys."
One positive on the injury front is that right tackle Abraham Lucas made it though the night OK in what was his first game action since leaving the season-opener with a knee injury. Lucas started the game and played 41 of 69 offensive snaps, with Jason Peters playing the rest.
"He was good," Carroll said. "I did have a chance to sit with him last night, and he felt good about it. He did not take any steps backwards. Now, we'll see how he is this morning, that was in the middle of the night, but he was pleased with the night. He knew he could do some things better, this and that, but I think he was relieved that he got back out there and played and made it through it."
Check out some of the best action shots from Week 13 at the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 30, 2023. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery. This gallery will be updated throughout the game