To characterize where his team stands halfway through the 2015 season, Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas paraphrased former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green.
"If I could just make it simple, we are who we think we are in a lot of ways," Thomas said following Sunday's victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
But unlike Green's infamous "They are who we thought they were" rant following a 2006 loss to the Chicago Bears, Thomas was calm assessing his team. And when it comes to being "who we think we are," that's a very good thing for the Seahawks. Seattle came into the season having won two straight NFC titles, one Super Bowl and 36 regular-season games over the past three seasons, so if players are starting to feel like the team is playing like it is capable of, then that's an encouraging sign heading into the second half of the season.
"I think we're getting there," quarterback Russell Wilson said. "The confidence is there in the locker room, the belief, the energy, the passion. We've lost some tough, tough games down to the wire. We've played tough teams, another tough team (Sunday), and we were able to pull through. That's what you look forward to every week. Every game is going to be a tough one, and the goal is to progress and get better week in and week out."
Yes, it's true that not many teams that started 2-4 have made the playoffs, but it's also true that very few 2-4 teams have ever had a roster as talented as Seattle's, so if the Seahawks have in fact turned a corner, as players and head coach Pete Carroll have both alluded to after back-to-back road wins, there are plenty of games left for the Seahawks make this a successful season. With two games left against division-leading Arizona, a home game against St. Louis, which leads the Seahawks by half a game, and five of eight at home, including three straight following the bye, this Seahawks season has a much different feeling to it at 4-4 than it did two weeks ago following back-to-back losses in which they gave up big leads late in the game.
"We've turned it the last couple of games here to put us at 4-4, which is nothing to be shouting about, but it did put us in a position where we have a second half to really go forward," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We have all of the matchups in the games that we need to play in the division to settle issues and go for it and take it as far as we can."
And it's not just that the Seahawks won their past two games, it's that they're starting to get back to their winning formula of running the ball, hitting big plays in the passing game, playing suffocating defense and finishing strong. There have been elements of that formula on display all season, but unlike earlier in the year when things fell apart late in losses, the Seahawks spent their past two games shutting opposing offenses down in the fourth quarter while controlling the time of possession by staying on the field on offense. Add to that an improving offensive line, which didn't allow a sack at Dallas, and there is a lot more cause for optimism now than there was just two games ago.
"We've put back-to-back weeks in winning on the road, which is enormous and we're grateful for those wins, and doing things in a fashion that really shows that we're different than we were early in the year, that we're finishing games well on both sides of the ball and starting to play more in the style that we're accustomed to," Carroll said. "… We have improvement that we can see that we're really going to build on, and we're hopeful and very healthy going in with a few exceptions. As we come out of this break, we should come out strong and be ready to go. It's a big month of November, obviously coming up, starting with a great game against Arizona."
If this all sounds a little bit familiar, there's a reason for that. Last year's Seahawks, who eventually finished 12-4 and earned the NFC's No. 1 overall seed, stumbled out of the gate, going 3-3, then 6-4, bringing up plenty of questions about whether or not there was a Super Bowl hangover or some other problem weighing them down. Eventually, however, the Seahawks turned things around to win six straight to close out the season.
"I don't think it feels much different than it did last year," Carroll said. "I think it's very similar. It's unfortunate that it takes us a while, but I think what this is is an opportunity to observe what it's like to be where we've been and to come back. It's why you've seen so many teams find it difficult. This is a really big challenge, and there's so many things that go into winning the game and not winning it, and we're working our way through it. If we're able to put the second half together like we plan on, then we'll be really proud of that. You can just see it, there's an impact going into that last game, and I've been excited about the challenge of trying to figure it out and help the fellows get through it.
"Where we are right now? I feel like we're OK. I know nobody else probably does, but we feel like we're OK right now and we're ready to go to work."
Later in his postgame press conference, Carroll was asked if he had a sense that things were coming together for his team after consecutive road victories.
"Yeah, I do feel like that, and they feel like that too," Carroll said. "I think last week had something to do with that also. We know we played really well in those couple of game we let get away from us against Cincinnati and Carolina. We knew that, we knew what happened, and unfortunately they got away from us. Those are games you look at the other way around, those could have been dominant wins for us and we didn't get it done. So it's there to be had. We're going to try to figure it out. It's an extraordinary test case to see if we can put this together. We'll see if we can."
The Seahawks still have a lot of work to do in order to make this a successful season, but if, as Thomas says, they are who they thought they were, then another strong finish could be in store for this year's team.
The week 8 match-up against the Dallas Cowboys came down to a nail-bitting finish, with the Seahawks holding on to their late lead for the win.