The Seahawks are in a position this week they haven't found themselves in very often over the past decade, a team looking to avoid a third straight loss.
The Seahawks last lost three straight in October of 2011, and since then they've lost consecutive games only 10 times, including these past two games, and the previous nine times that losing streak stopped at two. So it's no surprise that, with a trip to the Bay Area coming up to face the 49ers, there is what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll described as a "real serious" vibe around the VMAC this week.
"It's real serious," Carroll said. "They want this to go the way our expectations are designed. That means we have to play better, and everybody knows that. Coming out of the meetings on Monday, showing the film, showing where the concerns were, the plays we could have made, and the decisions we could have made, everybody is tuned in. We are trying to tune in forever, but I think there is a little bit of a different feel about it. They want to prove it; they want to prove that we are on the right track and that we are going to win a bunch of different games."
It hardly comes as a surprise that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who shares Carroll's optimistic view of the world, both expects the Seahawks to respond well to their recent struggles, and also to grow from them.
"I think that every opportunity is a lesson to learn something," said Wilson. "You are always gaining knowledge and understanding more. Not everything is a failure, everything is an opportunity to grow individually and collectively as a team. You continue to learn the game. I love adversity and I know our football team does too. We can handle it and we are looking forward to answering the call and try to play our best football."
Wilson has not lost three straight games since 2009, his sophomore season at NC State, and neither he nor the Seahawks has any plans to let their recent losses snowball into bigger struggles.
"You have to stay the course," Wilson said. "So many times, people will panic and will get worried and frustrated. The best thing to do is stay the course, be honest, and figure out how we can get better, and then keep going for it. This league is challenging, every game is challenging. We play in arguably the best division in football, every week is tough. We look forward to the challenges of it all. I think the language is everything too, how we pick each other up, how we communicate with each other, and how we continue to stay focused on the task at hand. We have been playing some really good football and there are some things that we can get better at, that's the truth. It's not anything more complicated than that, but now it's taking those things that we can get better at and improve week-to-week on those things."
For Wilson and the offense, the main thing to improve upon is the way the production has dropped in the second halves of games. The Seahawks offense has been one of the best in football in the first half of games this season, scoring 21 points in Week 1, 24 in Week 2 and 17 last week, but the Seahawks have managed only 13 second-half points in three games, including none in last week's loss to Minnesota, and have yet to score in the third quarter.
"We just have to execute, it's not anything that we have to go fishing for," Wilson said. "Obviously, we have the ability to do that, we have done that throughout the game and earlier in the game. I think we just have to execute. I think it's the opportunities too, the more opportunities the better, but I also think it's about catching that rhythm and staying out of third and long situations. Sometimes it's been longer distances, I'm thinking about the third quarter of last game where we had third-and-17 or something like that. Those are always tricky to get but we just have to stay the course. We know what we are going to do, how we can do it, what our mindset is, and what we are capable of."
The defense, meanwhile, is looking to get back playing like it did in the second half of last season, and even the first six quarters this season, and stop giving up the big plays, long drives and frequent third-down conversions that have been a problem over the past game and half.
Linebacker and defensive captain Bobby Wagner, who like Wilson has never experienced a three-game losing streak in the NFL, expects his defense to fix the issues that have hindered them so far this season, and said this week he has had good conversations with his teammates that give him confidence the turn is coming.
"I spoke to everybody. I feel like we're all on the same page. I think that was the most important thing, communication is definitely the number one thing," Wagner said. "We've just got to get out of our way. These last two games defensively we've been in our own way. Whether it's the penalties or our execution, we need to get out of our own way. We have the talent, we have the players, we have everything we need to be a great defense, we just need to get out of our way."
Safety Jamal Adams said the turnaround starts with confidence, and he sees that in Seattle's defense in part because players know they can go from struggling to dominant in a hurry, having done so just last season. And he fully expects that turnaround to happen, starting this week.
"It's just getting back to who we are as a defense," Adams said. "Our mindset hasn't changed. We understand who we are, and we've just got to get back to believing in that, everybody, playing our style of play. Starting this week, things will change."
Photos of the Seahawks playing the 49ers throughout the years leading up to their Week 4 matchup at Levi's Stadium.