Seahawks coach Pete Carroll didn't see last week's loss in Los Angeles coming—there were no obvious signs that his team was headed for its first road loss of the season when they arrived at the L.A. Coliseum. And Carroll obviously wasn't happy with what transpired over the course of three hours as the Rams handed the Seahawks a 28-12 loss.
But Carroll also wasn't overly alarmed by what happened in that game. He's been around football, and the NFL in particular, long enough to know a few things, including the fact that, as the cliché goes, anything can happen on any given Sunday, and more importantly, he knows that one loss doesn't necessarily predict any future issues.
So when Seattle plays the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America on Sunday, Carroll expects the Seahawks to put on a performance that indicates that they both learned some tough lessons from last week's game, and that they properly processed that game, put it behind them and moved onto the next challenge on the schedule.
"This league will humble you," Carroll said. "You get caught up in it, it can humble you. The teams are so good, and it doesn't matter what their record is. It's just that day. That's always been the case. So, you have to stay on it. You have to stay ahead. We've had some really good clubs that got humbled late in the year, too. Hopefully that helps us to make sure that we don't allow for any latitude at all that can get us and give somebody else an edge on us. We were jacked to play (the Rams). The whole week was a great week."
As Carroll notes, plenty of other good teams, past Seahawks squads included, have had a late-season clunker that didn't really change the trajectory of team. Yes, there are years like 2014 when the Seahawks won six in a row to close the regular season, or 2012 when they won their final five games to clinch a playoff spot, but there have also been plenty of other seasons in which the Seahawks were rolling, looking unbeatable right up until somebody beat them, but were able to then quickly recover from a setback.
Most notably, the eventual Super Bowl champion squad from 2013 started the year 11-1, only to lose two if its next three, including a home game to Arizona for its first home loss since 2011. That team responded by winning its final two games to clinch the NFC's top seed. In 2015, the Seahawks looked unstoppable in the second half of the season, winning five in a row, most of them by big margins, only to fall behind 16-0 at home to the Rams in an eventual Week 16 loss. A week later, the Seahawks clinched a playoff spot by blowing out the NFC West champion Cardinals in Arizona. And last season, the Seahawks won four in a row heading into Week 15, then lost a penalty-marred game to a 49ers team they had blown out two weeks earlier. A week after that loss, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks out-dueled eventual MVP Patrick Mahomes in one of Seattle's most impressive wins of the year, a 38-31 victory over the Chiefs.
Those bounce-back victories are just a few examples of the many, many times the Seahawks have responded well to adversity. Since 2012, the year the Seahawks added Wilson and Bobby Wagner and began a streak of eight straight winning seasons, Seattle is 30-7 coming off of a regular-season loss. Carroll and his players have noted on a few occasions when that topic comes up that the key to their success after a loss is that nothing really changes from when the Seahawks win. Just as they usually do a good job not letting success go to their heads, the Seahawks are good at processing losses quickly and not letting those linger.
"I think it's our mindset," Wagner said "The way that we go about it is just to try to live in the moment. You let the whatever happened happen, the good and the bad. You don't want to have a great game and let that linger into the weekend and you think about last game and miss the game that's in front of you. It's the same thing with a loss. When you have a loss that didn't go your way, or it was a close game, or you got blown out, you just let it go. You take what you need to take from it, you learn what you need to learn from it, and then you move on. That's our mindset. That's what we try to have everybody think, and I feel that's probably why we're so successful after a loss, is because we're able to move on from it and not let it linger into the next game."
But no matter how hard the Seahawks work on being consistent in their approach every week, human nature can occasionally creep in when the team is rolling, as the Seahawks had been, so while nobody wanted to lose last week, a silver lining can come out of getting beaten pretty thoroughly while there's still time to recover.
"I don't want to say you need those things to happen to you, but it's not necessarily a bad thing," said linebacker K.J. Wright, the team's longest-tenured player. "We were rolling, five-game winning streak, and we got hit in the mouth. And sometimes when you're in a boxing match, you get hit in the mouth, you see how you respond. And I believe this is going to be a time where we can really show how we can respond as a team, and that loss was not necessarily a really bad thing… That was just demoralizing pretty much from beginning to end. You've just got to be like, it was one of those nights, and we have to make sure that the next week, we just fix whatever issues we had."
Only Sunday's game will show if the Seahawks learned the right lessons from last week's loss, but if practice was any indication, the team is handling it well.
"It was really directed, focused," Carroll said Friday of the practice week. "We practiced hard—we backed off today because we worked so hard the last couple days. We're in good shape and we're ready to go. We've done the things that we do, and I think everybody's really tuned in to making sure that we come back and play really good ball this week. It showed throughout the week. We're in good shape."
Not long after last week's loss, Wagner stood in the long tunnel leaving the Coliseum, his back against a USC-Cardinal painted wall, and gave a measured response to an ugly game.
"We just have to learn from it," he said. "Understand that every team is fighting, it's not going to be easy, every team is going to fight us in the end. We have to focus on the little things and do the little things right. The leadership has to make sure we learn from this, and we will.
A few minutes earlier, cornerback Shaquill Griffin vowed that "it's going to be a totally different team come North Carolina."
The Seahawks need to play well Sunday to make those words mean anything, but their history under Carroll suggests that one bad game in December isn't likely going to be this team's undoing.
The Seahawks and the Panthers will meet this Sunday at the Bank of America Stadium for Week 15 of the 2019 season. Take a look back at photos from past games between the two teams.