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Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks ‘need a win’ going into Thursday night matchup vs. Cowboys

Christian McCaffrey (23) of the San Francisco 49ers runs with the ball during the third quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field on Nov. 23, 2023, in Seattle.  (Getty Images)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

SEATTLE – In Pete Carroll-era Seahawks lore, a trip to Dallas midway through the 2011 season has always been regarded as a turning point. Seattle didn’t win that day. In fact, the Seahawks’ 23-13 defeat dropped them to 2-6 at the midway point of Carroll’s second season, eliciting all sorts of grumbling about where things were headed.

But in losing, the Seahawks established an identity.

Having struggled all season to get much consistency on offense with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson – who was also dealing with a pec injury that had sidelined him two games prior – Carroll decided the team would run, run and run some more on the legs of Marshawn Lynch, then in his first full season with the team.

Lynch gained 135 yards as Seattle rushed for a season-high 162 yards. And a template had been set.

A Seahawks team that had rushed for 100 or more yards twice before that Dallas game would rush for 119 or more in eight of the final nine, using a formula of a run-powered offense and an emerging defense to win five of their next six and lay the foundation for all the success that followed the next few years.

As Seattle heads to Dallas for a game Thursday in Carroll’s 14th season as coach, the Seahawks are again searching for an identity.

The Seahawks have lost three of their last four to fall to 6-5 and have emerged as a team whose statistical profile screams mediocrity.

The Seahawks this week rank 18th in points scored, 22nd in points allowed; 21st in yards gained, 23rd in yards allowed; 17th in passing yards gained, 22nd in passing yards allowed; 26th in rushing yards gained, 21st in rushing yards allowed; 29th in third-down conversion percentage on offense, 27th in third-down conversion percentage on defense; and 25th in red-zone scoring percentage on offense, 27th in red-zone scoring percentage on defense.

You get the picture.

One potential explanation is that the Seahawks simply aren’t that good.

The blowout losses over the past four games to the best two teams they’ve played this season – Baltimore and San Francisco, by a combined 68-16 give a lot of evidence to that conclusion.

So does the fact that including playoffs, the Seahawks are 15-14 over the past two seasons – since the trade of Russell Wilson – having also suffered five of their eight largest defeats since the middle of the 2011 season in that span, all by 17 points or more, three this season.

But that’s obviously not an explanation coaches or players can accept – and neither can the organization at this point of the season when there is nothing that can be done to change the personnel.

So, the Seahawks spent the week since the 31-13 loss to the 49ers searching for answers.

All talked of needing more urgency to avoid falling into big deficits, as happened against the 49ers, who took a 24-3 halftime lead.

“We’ve got to go in; we’ve got to start fast,” veteran defensive lineman Jarran Reed said.

Coaches and players also talked of needing to find that missing identity. Carroll laid the groundwork for the theme of the week last Friday when he said the team has to do a better job of making use of its talent.

“We have to maximize our people and have to make sure that we’re putting them in the best positions for them to contribute so that we can make our momentum felt early in the game,” Carroll said.

That’s especially critical against a Dallas team that has won 13 straight at home and all five this year, when it has yet to trail for even a second at the stadium informally known as Jerry World.

It’s a Dallas team whose statistical profile is pretty much the opposite of Seattle’s. The 8-3 Cowboys, for instance, rank first in points scored and fourth in points allowed and fifth in total offense and third in total defense.

Dallas also comes in on a three-game winning streak in which it has outscored the Giants, Carolina and Washington 127-37. True, none of those teams is good. But then, those same three teams also represent half of Seattle’s six wins, and much of the games that positively influence the Seahawks’ stats.

“We’re going against a crazy opponent that’s doing great,” Carroll said. “Streaks and numbers and stats and all kinds of stuff supporting their success, so we’ve got to really get our game right. That’s what we are going after, and we’re going to do it as aggressively as we can. I have to make sure that I get us on all cylinders better than we did (against the 49ers). As always, I’m going to take full account for this. I have to make sure that we are all firing better than we have. That’s what we’re going to get done.”

The team responded with what all said were spirited practices, insisting their faith has not wavered.

“The reality is that we have a lot of games left and we have a great team,” middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “We’re in a good position and we’re in control of our (playoff) destiny. We need to come out, we need to make the plays that we need to make, we need to do our jobs better, and that’s all in our control.”

The Seahawks also understand that the time for patience is running out, especially with the schedule that awaits. Following Thursday, Seattle has its minibye over the weekend before a return game against the 49ers in Santa Clara on Dec. 10 and coming home to play the Eagles on Dec. 17.

“I’m concerned about everything we’re doing right now,” Carroll said Friday. “That night last night will make you challenge everything. There are questions to be asked and answers to be found. That’s where we are right now.”

It was left to Reed to state publicly what is the most important answer the Seahawks need to find.

“We need a win,” Reed said. “We need to put a couple of wins together, stack them together. We need this one, for sure. This is going to be a huge game for us.”