Reinforcements on the way

Published on November 9, 2010 by     T.C.

The last time a Pete Carroll-coached team lost back-to-back games was in 2001. This week, the Seahawks could get Matt Hasselbeck, Brandon Mebane and Russell Okung back as they look to avoid a third loss in a row.

Losing is the pits. In any sport. At any level. It’s not why you play the game.

So you can imagine how Pete Carroll was feeling on Monday, less than 24 hours after the Seahawks lost their second consecutive game – this time 41-7 to the New York Giants at Qwest Field. A week earlier, it was a 33-3 loss to the Raiders in Oakland.

The Seahawks’ first-year coach just isn’t used to feeling the way he has felt the past two Mondays. In nine seasons at the University of Southern California, he lost only 19 games – and the last time one of his teams dropped back-to-back games was in 2001, early in his first season. The Trojans lost twice in 2002, 2006 and 2007, but not in consecutive weeks. They lost four games last season. But again, not two in a row.

There were losing streaks during his time with the New York Jets (five and three games) and New England Patriots (three, three times; two, three times). But that was in 1994 and again in 1997-99.

Obviously, Carroll is not accustomed to losing streaks.

“Well, I’m not sleeping as well as I’d like,” Carroll said when asked how he was taking the two-game losing streak. “I’m just wracking my brain, and competing, to figure out what I can do to help. That’s what my job is.

“So how am I taking it? I’m OK about taking it. I’m just anxious about fixing it.”

While there is no quick fix, whatever Carroll and his staff can come up with needs to be quick – because the Seahawks next opportunity to get right, and get it right, comes Sunday in Arizona against the two-time defending NFC West champion Cardinals.

Despite the two-game losing streak, the Seahawks are tied with the St. Louis Rams for the division lead at 4-4. The Cardinals are a game back at 3-5. Someone has to win this division, and the winners of Sunday’s games will take a large step toward doing just that since the Rams are at San Francisco while the Seahawks are playing the Cardinals.

“It kind of just keeps cranking at me, and keeps me on my toes,” Carroll said. “Hopefully with the help of everybody we’ll start moving in the right direction.”

Reinforcements are on the way for a team that played without eight injured starters against the Giants. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and left tackle Russell Okung could return for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals.

Hasselbeck gives the Seahawks their best chance to win, even though the offense has scored two touchdowns in its past three games. Mebane, who has missed the past four games, definitely would help a run defense that has yielded 197 and 239 rushing yards the past two games after allowing an average of 70.4 in the first four games. Okung would give the offense its preferred tandem on the left side – Okung at tackle and Chester Pitts at guard – as the Seahawks try to jumpstart a running game that has totaled 96 yards the past two weeks after compiling a season-high 144 in the first game against the Cardinals.

Here’s a rundown on each player as he attempts to return this week:

Hasselbeck – He sat out the Giants game after getting a concussion while being sacked a career-high eight times against the Raiders.

“Matt had a good workout today,” Carroll said. “He responded well; best he has. It looks very good at this point.”

Hasselbeck has yet to be cleared to return to practice, Carroll said, but that doesn’t need to happen until Wednesday.

Mebane – He aggravated an old calf injury, which forced him to miss the games against the Bears, Cardinals, Raiders and Giants. Kentwan Balmer stepped in at the three-technique tackle spot for the first three games, but he moved to end against the Giants to replace Red Bryant – who had season-ending knee surgery last week. So Craig Terrill started for Mebane against the Giants.

“He had just about a full workout today, which is the best sign that we’ve seen of him,” Carroll said. “He’s really perked up about it. He feels like he’s on his way back now. We’re expecting him to practice on Wednesday and be in there full speed.”

Okung – The team’s top draft choice has played only six full quarters because of sprains to his right and now left ankle. But in those briefs stints – two quarters against the Rams, the entire game against the Bears and not even the entire first series against the Cardinals – Okung has been the team’s best O-lineman.

“He worked out well today,” Carroll said. “He’ll be in there again tomorrow. We’ll just go day-to-day. He’s very close. … We’re hopeful, and I know he’s very hopeful, that he’ll be able to get back and help us.”

While it’s only three players, they are three players who definitely could make a difference for a team searching for difference-makers.

“We’re fortunate, with the hits that we took in the last couple weeks, we’re fortunate to be where we are right now,” Carroll said. “That’s really important to notice and recognize. We have a chance to keep going here with our division, which is the goal of our program – to own this division.

“That’s there for us. And here we go, against the Cardinals there. It’s a huge opportunity.”

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