Certainly ranking among the top 10 of Pete Carroll’s most common messages to his team is this one: It doesn’t matter how you start, but how you finish.
It seems that one might be worth backing off a little bit.
Although it shows they’re paying attention, the Seattle Seahawks are taking him far too literally . . . especially the offense.
Last season set the tone, when Carroll’s first Seahawks team was outscored 230-128 in first halves. But they’re nowhere near keeping it that competitive in the first four games of 2011, being outscored 67-13 in the first halves. Rallying to “win” the second halves 45-30 has left them 1-3.
They fell behind the Atlanta Falcons 24-7 at halftime on Sunday before turning it into a thrilling 30-28 loss.
It’s not a matter of playing possum, not strategic rope-a-dope. It’s been almost totally about offensive ineffectiveness.
“It’s so different first half to second half,” Carroll said at his Monday afternoon press conference. “It’s surprising the game could be so different. So many things went right for us in the second half.”
Great halftime speech? Special orange slices?
“The whole tempo changed,” he said. “Our guys got going and we did a lot of things that were really positive.”
The offensive line pass protected better than it had all season, it blocked better for the run, and the offense finally generated some big plays.
Carroll’s theory? “We’re not creating much offensively to help us,” he said. “We’ve been OK at times on defense. I really think we need a spark offensively. It’s pretty clear we’ve been able to pick it up at times in the second half. I’d like to see if we can get started faster and get off to a little better rhythm.”
Carroll kept referencing the improved tempo of play, which was enhanced by the no-huddle approach.
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said after the game that he tends to over-think situations, and the quickened tempo causes him to play more instinctively.
But it’s been a problem all season, as his first-half passer ratings have been 62.0 and his second-half ratings 91.0.
As is typical of most NFL teams, Carroll said the Sea-hawks have their early offense planned in advance. Those plans have resulted in a single field goal in 60 minutes of first-quarter play this season. Three points.
Seattle’s halftime scores this season have been dismal. The Seahawks trailed 16-0 at San Francisco, 17-0 at Pittsburgh, 10-6 to Arizona and 24-7 against Atlanta.
So, here’s a rather obvious point: Opponents are probably letting up on them after half.
When you have more than a two touchdown lead going into the second half, it’s natural that a team is somewhat drained of the old competitive fervor. Teams defend differently, allowing more underneath passes, or rushing plays that burn the clock.
It’s possible that even if some of the second-half yards and points come easier, it helps build some confidence and momentum that can be harnessed and exploited as the team grows in experience.
“I’m never one that relies on fast starts,” Carroll said. “But at this time, we need to do better than we’re doing. We need to take care of the football and move down the field some, use the clock and get a good look at our opponent and see what’s going on.”
So, fans may expect more of the up-tempo approach early in the game. And maybe opening up the playbook before things get out of hand.
“It’s not too late,” Carroll said of the team’s 1-3 record. “We’ve got to get rolling and get some wins going here.”