SEATTLE, Wash. -- On one hand, the Seahawks pulled off a pretty remarkable turnaround late in Saturday's game, overcoming a two-score deficit with a pair of touchdown drives in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter. On the other hand, the Seahawks were position to need that comeback because of struggles on both sides of the ball that aren't characteristic of Pete Carroll's recent teams, particularly considering how well the Seahawks usually play late in the season.
So it's not a surprise that after his team fell 34-31 to the Arizona Cardinals, Carroll wasn't happy with what he had seen out of his team in a loss that dropped Seattle's record to 9-5-1.
"That was a really disappointing ball game for us," Carroll said. "We had a lot of stuff we wanted to try to get done today, and we didn't look like ourselves at all in the first half. This wasn't good football, it wasn't anywhere like we wanted to play."
The potentially good news going forward is that the offense played very well in the second half, scoring three touchdowns while gaining 297 yards, a half in which "everything was just better," according to Carroll, including the play up front. But ideally the Seahawks would prefer to avoid situations in which they're not relying on a dramatic second-half turnaround.
"I don't know what was going on with us in the first half, we had a lot of mistakes," said receiver Doug Baldwin, who had career highs with 13 catches for 171 yards, giving him a second straight 1,000-yard season. "We just couldn't do anything right. Once we settled down and figured out that it was just football again, we were able to play football again.
"We just have to look in the mirror and realize who we are. We're a very talented group of men, we've got a lot of weapons on the offensive side. We've got to protect Russell (Wilson), Russell's got to get the ball out, we've got to catch it as receivers, we've got to run the ball efficiently and effectively, and when we do those things, we're pretty hard to stop. But we have to do those things in an effective nature and efficiently. That's what it boils down to. I really don't know what the answer is other than us just looking in the mirror and realizing how talented we truly are."
Like Baldwin, Wilson, who passed for 350 yards and four touchdowns, is confident his team can get right going forward and find more consistency in their offensive play.
"I know we have it," Wilson said. "It's not like we have to go find it somewhere else. We don't have to go find new plays or new coaches or new things, all that kind of stuff. At the end of the day, it comes down to execution, it comes down to us doing right longer than the other team, and us doing right one play at a time, just staying in the moment, then realizing that every play counts. Not putting ourselves behind the 8-ball like we did in the first half… I'm not focused on the first half as much, I really want to focus on what we were able to do in the second half. That's where we need to continue our focus—this is what we can continue to do, let's continue to do those things. It's not some mystery, we have all the capability in the world."
The Seahawks, who have clinched the NFC West but still have seeding at stake in next week's game, know that they're running out of time to become the team they want to be in the postseason, but they also don't see their current situation as a desperate one.
"There's a sense of urgency," Baldwin said. "I wouldn't say there's any panic. We still have an opportunity to win it all, so what it comes down to is us getting our football right, and that's going to take a lot of effort on our end, both preparing and then also executing it when we're out there on the football field. So there's a sense of urgency for us to get our stuff right, but with the men we have on this team, they're extremely talented and dedicated and passionate to do that, so I have no doubt we will."
Saturday's loss wasn't only the result of a poor first half from the offense, however. The Seahawks' usually stingy defense did a good job for most of the night with the Cardinals' top offensive threat, running back David Johnson, but they also uncharacteristically allowed several huge plays, including an 80-yard touchdown pass to J.J. Nelson in the second quarter.
"They got behind us on a big pass, on the post, that's not supposed to happen," Carroll said. For Carroll, stopping big plays is a "pretty fundamental" element of his team's defense, so it was unusual, to say the least, to allow gains of 29 or more yards on five different plays, including a 33-yard run and 41-yard pass on consecutive plays during a fourth-quarter touchdown drive.
Like their teammates on the other side of the ball, Seattle's defensive players have seen enough strong play this season to feel confident they can improve upon Saturday's performance.
"We'll be good," linebacker K.J. Wright said. "We've been in this position before. Had a little setback, but we're going to bounce back and finish this last game strong and see how the playoff picture plays out."
Added linebacker Bobby Wagner "That's not the way we wanted to finish the game and we've got to do better."
But Wagner later added, "Because of the guys in this room I'm never discouraged. I don't even know how many points we were down by, we came back. We were down by 10 with whatever many seconds left and we came back, so I'm never discouraged."
The Seahawks are playoff bound, and they'll host at least one postseason game, so their goals are still out there for them. But as Carroll and his players all experienced Saturday, there's also still plenty of work to be done.
"We have a lot of work to do this season," Carroll said. "We have a lot of stuff coming, and we have to stay together and be there to get right and get better and keep improving, that's how you do it right now. You keep improving, you keep working to improve, and it was so obvious that we could do that during the course of the game, and we can do that for the whole game too. We need to find that."
Action photos from Seahawks vs Cardinals during Week 16 at CenturyLink Field.