JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—Not long after the Seahawks lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday evening, quarterback Russell Wilson was already talking to teammates about what lies ahead for Seattle.
"The reality is we are fighting for first place next week," Wilson said. "I was just reminding guys the reality of the situation is—we have to come back stronger and be better and everything else—but the great thing is we get to fight for first place."
Nobody in Seattle's locker room was happy about what transpired in Jacksonville Sunday, with the Seahawks losing 30-24, dropping their record to 8-5, but the Seahawks also know that, with the Los Angeles Rams losing to Philadelphia, first place in the NFC West is on the line when the Rams travel to Seattle next weekend. The 9-4 Rams currently have a one-game lead on Seattle, but with the Seahawks having won in L.A. earlier this season, a second win over the Rams would give the Seahawks the tiebreaker.
"We're right back where we were," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We've been looking at this game coming up, that this could be the one for the division, to make a difference, and it's a huge opportunity for us, and for them as well. So it should be a great matchup, and they've been playing great football, and we look forward to getting ready."
Yet the Seahawks also know that if they'd have done a few things better on Sunday, they'd already be in first place. But against a talented, opportunistic Jaguars defense, the Seahawks turned the ball over three times, their defense and punt coverage team gave up uncharacteristic big plays, and despite an impressive fourth-quarter comeback, the Seahawks saw a four-game road winning streak come to an end.
"That was a real battle tonight," Carroll said. "I thought Jacksonville did great. They did what they needed to do, and played really well. We look at it, from our end of it, we see how many things that we gave that made it hard for us. When you turn it over three times, and you have a huge play in the kicking game, and you have a huge play against your defense, it's really hard to win."
Yet for all that went wrong, Carroll and his players were proud of how they battled back to have a chance at winning the game. After the Jaguars built a two-score lead in the third quarter, they extended the lead to 17 points with 10:04 left in the game, but thanks to two long touchdown passes, a 61-yarder to Paul Richardson and a 74-yarder to Tyler Locket, the Seahawks made it a one-score game and, with the defense coming up with a stop, Wilson and the offense had the ball with a chance to take the lead, though they were unable to do so. Of all the different things the Seahawks have done well over the years under Carroll, one of their most impressive traits has been their resilience. Even on their worst days, the Seahawks are incredibly difficult to put away. Dating back to the middle of the 2011 season, the Seahawks have lost by double digits just three times in 112 games, postseason included.
"Our guys, they didn't stop," Carroll said. "They kept battling and competed to give us a chance all the way until there was no more time left. You have to give (Jacksonville) a lot of credit. That's a nice football team, and they're worthy of the stats and the things that they've been able to run up at this time—the running game, and the defensive stuff that they can do. It's a really good football team… We had a shot. Hats off to the Jaguars, but I love what our guys did, and how they battled in this game. I love the way they battled. I love the way they fought. There was no stopping, no not believing that we couldn't get back, and there's enough power in that belief to give us a chance to have a great finish this season, and I'm counting on it."
With an 8-5 record, the Seahawks haven't left themselves much margin for error the rest of the way, but for a team that over the years has often been its best when facing some adversity, that doesn't have to be a bad thing.
"Appreciate the adversity," receiver Doug Baldwin said when asked what his message to the team would be. "As long as I've been here, I've always felt like our backs have been against the wall, and when our backs are against the wall, we play our best. So this is another opportunity to show that, to show who we are, not only as football players but as men. Everything we want to achieve is still right in front of us. We have everything we need to go and do it, so my message to them is to just get back to work."
Added Wilson: "We're in this moment right now, and the reality is the moment is right now. The reality is we are fighting for first place against a team that has played great all year in the Rams. They gave us a tough test last time. They've got so many great players so we have tons of respect for them and their coaches and everything else. We've got to clear our heads, clear our heads and be great coming up this week and then move from there."
The Seahawks can still win their division and earn a sixth straight playoff berth, but they know they'll have to clean up on some things that led to this loss in Jacksonville if they're going to achieve their goals.
"We better come with it," safety Earl Thomas said. "We better be sharp, our bodies have to be right, we've got to be fresh, and we've got to fly around and play good football."
The Seahawks fall short 30-24 against the Jaguars in Week 14 at EverBank Field.