The type of consistency Pete Carroll likes most is what he has seen out of his Seattle Seahawks during the four-game winning streak that has taken them from a losing record in mid-November to being a likely playoff team a month later. When the Seahawks have been at their best in recent years, it has been impressive to watch, and Carroll likes what he has seen over the past month, and in particular in back-to-back lopsided victories on the road.
"The focus has come together and the intention of playing for one another is really clear," Carroll said. "That's something that really makes a difference on your team. When everything else gets pushed to the side and it's really about giving everything you have to the team, things seem to go to a different level. We've noticed that over the years, for years and years, and it's a very delicate balance. It's hard to get there sometimes, it's hard to fine tune it to get to that point. Once it happens, it's pretty obvious… When all that focus comes together, you can really do some special things. That's kind of what we're looking at right now."
And yes, the Seahawks are playing some very good football right now, but what is almost as impressive in its own right is the level of consistency they have been able to maintain even when things aren't going well. While Carroll is never going to be happy about losing a game by any margin, when the topic is brought up, he is able take pride in the fact that, dating back to the middle of the 2011 season, the Seahawks have been in every game they have played.
At their best, the Seahawks have been a championship-caliber team for three-plus seasons, but even on their worst days, they have been a really tough out for most of Carroll's tenure in Seattle. Since losing by 22 points to Cincinnati in Week 8 of the 2011 season, the Seahawks have gone 57 regular season games—65 including the postseason—without losing by more than 10 points. And other than two 10-point losses and one 9-point loss, they have been within a single score in every loss over that span.
The Seahawks have also gone 61 straight games with—69 including the postseason—holding a lead at some point in the game, which is an NFL record, and their last game without a lead was a Week 17 loss to Arizona in 2011 that went to overtime.
"I think the stat that's pretty impressive is how hard we are to beat," Carroll said. "It has been hard for teams to get a lot of points and get a spread on us. Why that's important is just your consistency. We want to win every game, and we're trying to win every one of them until it's over, but we have made it a challenge for our opponents. I think it goes back to our guys finishing well and giving us a chance, and giving us an opportunity in every game we play, no matter where we go or whatever the situation is. That's something that we take pride in. I don't really like the stat, because it's kind of on the other end of the spectrum of stats, but after a while you look back and it does show that you have staying power and you finish well, and you're working to outlast your opponents in a big way. So I'm proud of that part of it."
The reason Carroll is proud of a stat that involves losses is that he knows how rare it is to be competitive in every game for such a long stretch of time. Even the very best teams have bad weeks—the Patriots lost a game 41-14 last season before eventually winning the Super Bowl—but the Seahawks, through all the ups and downs, have been in every game they have played since the middle of the 2011 season.
That level of consistency isn't supposed to happen in a league structured to foster parity. It's not normal for a team to find its way a year and a half into a new regime, then continue posting double-digit win seasons year-after-year while being seemingly immune to the occasional clunker that mars even the best teams' seasons. Normal in the NFL isn't finishing strong December after December; normal is when every so often, even talented teams stumble out of the gate and never recover. And normal definitely isn't being competitive into the game's final minutes, even on your worst day, over a span of four years.
This season alone, some of the best teams in the league have suffered defeats worse than any Seahawks loss in more than four years, with the 11-2 Cardinals losing by 12 to Pittsburgh, the 10-3 Broncos losing by 16 to Kansas City, the 10-3 Bengals losing by 13 to Pittsburgh and the 9-4 Packers losing by 19 to Denver.
"I think that's normal," Carroll said of the occasional lopsided loss. "What's normal is not being able to keep the games that tight forever. That's what most teams do. That's what happens; games get away. Go back a couple years and we were right in there. We had some terrible games here at home, and some horrible memories about matchups and stuff, when we couldn't keep the score close and keep in the match the whole way. That happens for most teams. That's why it's a remarkable number in some regards, I'd like to keep it going."