Seattle showed both sides of its personality on Sunday, the two halves of its victory illustrating the two extremes of this season.
The Seahawks played the first half like a team that was bottoming out, falling behind by 14 points to a one-win Carolina team that hadn’t held a double-digit lead at any point this season. Then the Seahawks found both purpose and momentum in the second half, scoring 28 points in the final two quarters.
The comeback saved the game. Whether it salvages the season depends on what happens next, and on Monday coach Pete Carroll talked to his team about the transformation that occurred between the two halves of the wholly puzzling victory.
“It’s really important to point out to our guys what happened,” Carroll said. “To get real clear about the difference in our performance.”
Three-quarters of the way through this season, the 6-6 Seahawks stand at a crossroad. They have lost four of their past six games. Sunday’s comeback could be merely a hiccup in their downward spiral, or they could make that second-half comeback into a springboard for the final four games.
Something happened to this team in the second half, and the outcome of this season will depend upon Seattle’s ability to replicate it.
“We were playing like a football team that’s hitting on all cylinders,” Carroll said of that second half. “That means that that play is in us. That’s there for us to tap into.”
It just hasn’t been around all that often. At least not since Seattle played in Oakland on Halloween when the Seahawks got steamrolled in the second half.
“That was probably the time that our problems started,” Carroll said. “We got banged up pretty good in that game, and haven’t really been back consistently since then.”
Defensive end Red Bryant suffered a knee injury that ended his season in the second quarter. Defensive tackle Colin Cole suffered an ankle injury in the fourth, and is just now set to resume practicing. The swagger that Seattle generated with its 4-2 start evaporated that afternoon in Oakland. The Seahawks are still recovering.
“We’ve had a tough month,” Carroll said. “It has taken its toll on us somewhat, and I don’t think I did a good enough job of keeping ahead of that.”
One half doesn’t change all that. It doesn’t erase the 34-point loss at home to the Giants or the 42 points allowed to Kansas City.
But Seattle’s comeback did avert the disaster of a third consecutive home loss, and for at least two quarters the Seahawks showed that they hadn’t entirely lost their grip on this season.
“We could elevate our game,” Carroll said. “We could get back to flying around, making things happen in all phases. It turned. There was a moment there, like we said, the challenge was obvious.”
The Seahawks met that challenge. They overcame the loss of two starting receivers to injury, scored 31 consecutive points and rushed for 126 yards in the final two quarters.
Seattle didn’t entirely save its season with that victory over the Panthers, but it gives the Seahawks a chance to find success over the final games of the season.
“This is fourth-quarter time coming from the season,” Carroll said. “We kick it off with a great matchup and all, but it’s time for us to really show the consistency that makes us worthy of having a good football season. That’s there for us now.”