The Seahawks have always been tough to beat under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, and especially since 2012 when Russell Wilson became the team's quarterback, Bobby Wagner became the middle linebacker, and a young team started to find its championship form.
That fact is evident in the Seahawks' 80-38-1 overall record since 2012; in their six playoff berths in seven years, including back-to-back Super Bowls; in the fact that, including last week's loss, they've only lost by double digits five times, playoffs included, since Week 9 of the 2011 season. And particularly relevant this week, it's evident in the fact that the Seahawks are 29-7 in games following a loss, good for an 80.6 percent winning percentage, since losing their season opener in 2012.
So what's the secret to bouncing back from a disappointing result? Well it turns out there isn't one… Sort of.
You see, the reason why Carroll team's tend to respond well to adversity is, in his view, the same reason why his team handles success well, and the same reason why the Seahawks have been so good in prime-time games: good old-fashioned, boring consistency. It's not that the Seahawks do something special after a loss, or in the buildup to a prime-time game, it's that they don't change anything. The way Carroll sees it, if you treat a game after a tough loss just like any other game, you're less likely to have any sort of hangover, so to speak, the following Sunday. And if you don't get overly hyped about a big Monday night game, then you're less likely to try too hard and make uncharacteristic mistakes under the bright lights. When Carroll talked about treating every game the same, about every week being a championship opportunity, those aren't empty platitudes, they're fundamental elements of what has been the most successful run in franchise history.
"We've been working on it for a long time," Carroll said. "It's interesting, it isn't the work that you do this week. It's the work that you do in the weeks past, I think, to bring the mentality to a place where you come back on Monday and do what you do Monday. Take the Tuesday off. Then, Wednesday is Wednesday. That means that the focus goes right to what's coming up. What's happened before is left behind in a really disciplined fashion. No matter how much it hurt or how much you rejoiced, you can let that impact what's coming up go so you can find consistency. I think it's something we really try hard to own. It only tells them next week, we'll go out and see how we do. It's a big deal to me to make sure that I do a good job with these guys in finding that consistency in how to return to what you're capable of doing."
Wilson, who is about as like-minded as Carroll when it comes to consistency and optimism as any human could be, echoes his coach's thoughts on why he and his teammates have tended to respond so well to adversity.
"I think our ability to move forward through all the great moments and some of the tough ones and the tough losses or whatever, I think it's because of our consistency and our approach," Wilson said. "Every game, we always say this, but every game, we view it as a championship game and championship preparation. No matter how well it goes, or how tough it is, we still have the same approach next week. We leave it behind and we focus on the next moment."
That same mentality of maintaining a consistent approach is relevant this week not only in how the Seahawks hope to respond after a loss, but in how they are viewing this week's opponent, the Atlanta Falcons. Yes, the Falcons have had their struggles while starting the year 1-6, but there's plenty of talent on Atlanta's roster, so the Seahawks know they need to treat this week of preparation like any other. Does that sound a little boring or cliché? Sure. But it also works.
"They're a really good offense," linebacker K.J. Wright said. "They've had some games where they haven't scored much, they've had some games where they've put up 30 plus. I know for sure they're going to come out on fire, they're going to play for their coach, and give it their best shot. I know they're going to do that, so it's going to be a good game."
Said Carroll, "Consistency is the name of the game. Anybody can win sometimes. Anybody can go out and have a good day. It's, can you come back? Even if you make a good play, can you come back the next chance that you have? That's how you return to the moment and the focus and what it takes to make the plays that you just made. That's to let it go. A huge part of it is letting go of what just occurred and don't let judgement kick in and get in the way of what's going to happen next. That's extraordinarily valuable and important on all levels. The nature of competition is to see people go up and down and match the moments and then not match the moments and not be available for the opportunities and stuff like that. We don't want to miss this. We spend as much time on that mentality and that discipline as anything we do. It's a long season, we got to keep going. It's the last game of the first half. That's what this is all about right now. It's a championship opportunity."
Not everyone can point to a moment when a key belief or philosophy was formed, but in this case, Carroll knows exactly when he realized the importance of a consistent approach. Carroll has told the story a few times in the past, but it's an important one in his coaching history. Back in 2001, Carroll's first season at USC, the Trojans were traveling to South Bend, Indiana to face Notre Dame, and Carroll played up the history of Notre Dame football and one of college football's most storied venues as much as he could leading up to that game. The result was a nice history lesson, as well as a 27-16 defeat at the hands of the Irish.
"There is an absolute moment," he said. "It was the first year we were at SC and we played Notre Dame. On the road at Notre Dame. I had been told in the buildup to that game that this is the biggest thing in the world. You're going to hear the bells ringing when you walk through the arches of the stadium to see the scoreboard and all of the stuff. You're going to hear all of the echoes. I made the biggest deal out of that game. I feel like I told you this before, but we went to the Grotto and we went to the 'Touchdown Jesus' and the whole thing. We got our butt kicked. We just got our butt kicked. It was the biggest waste of time I have ever encountered. I thought, 'I'm never letting that happen again.' That's when the mentality kicked in. It wasn't all at once, but that was when the mentality kicked in that no longer are we going to make a game any different than any other one. It took away all the good things that we had just diminished in the midst of all of the hoopla and the buildup. It was a waste of time."
Eighteen years later, that lesson is a key part of Carroll's approach to coaching, and on Sunday he and the Seahawks hope that a consistent approach can once again pay off in the form of another victory.
The Seahawks and the Falcons will meet this Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium during week 8 of the 2019 season. Take a look back at photos from past games between the two teams.