SEATTLE -- No Russell Wilson, no late-game magic.
That was the story for the Seattle Seahawks when backup quarterback Geno Smith took over late against the Los Angeles Rams after Wilson injured a finger in their Week 5 game and again in both of Smith's starts since -- last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Monday night against the New Orleans Saints.
Three straight losses have served as the wrong kind of reminder that over the past 10 seasons, arguably no quarterback has been as good as Wilson with the game on the line.
"He's a special guy," said linebacker Bobby Wagner (who entered the NFL with Wilson in 2012) after Seattle's 13-10 loss to New Orleans. "Whenever we give him the ball back with some time left on the clock, you know something is going to happen. For me, I don't need to be reminded. I know what he's capable of doing, but I also know that Geno is capable of executing and I have faith in him."
But so far, Smith and the offense haven't executed at the end.
In all three games, the Seahawks had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final three minutes of regulation or in overtime.
After taking over with 2:09 left in a 23-17 game against the Rams, Smith was intercepted on their first play when his intended target, Tyler Lockett, fell down. Los Angeles iced it with a field goal three plays later.
The Seahawks needed any kind of score to win in sudden death when they got the ball back midway through overtime against the Steelers, only to turn it over deep in their territory when Smith lost a fumble while scrambling on the first play. That set up Pittsburgh for a chip-shot field goal to win it.
They trailed by three points Monday night when they took over with 1:56 left. Smith went 0-for-2 and was sacked twice, allowing New Orleans to take over on downs and kneel out the clock.
"Those are crucial moments and we had chances to really ice the game," Smith said. "And so we've got to really put that in our mindset just, like, 'Hey, man, we've got to be closers and finishers.' And that's something we can really work on."
Monday night's loss dropped the Seahawks to 2-5, marking their first time since 2011 that they've been three games under .500. That was Carroll's second season in Seattle and the season before Wilson was drafted. He was asked how much of their recent finishing issues are a function of not having Wilson.
"I've been here a long time," he said. "And if we didn't have Russell, I probably wouldn't have been here a long time. Because think of all the magic that he's created in the years. He's got numbers and stats, and fourth-quarter thises and thats, and all of that stuff. One of the winningest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. And it will be really fun when he comes back and plays football again for us this year. And we owe a tremendous amount. You can see how hard it is. I mean, all of these games -- the Rams game ... the Steelers, and this one.
"Russell's a factor. He's a fantastic positive factor and always has been. That's his time. That's when he shines. We miss him. In the meantime, we're going to keep fighting and clawing and doing everything we can."
Including postseason, Wilson has led 35 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. That's more than any quarterback in the NFL since he entered the league in 2012.
And like Wilson didn't do any of that single-handedly, Smith has hardly been the sole reason for the Seahawks' late shortcomings.
He threw a touchdown pass that capped a 98-yard touchdown drive against the Rams and gave Seattle life in the fourth quarter before his tough-luck interception.
Against the Saints, the Seahawks would have gotten their offense the ball back with six minutes left in a tie game had Marquise Blair not been called for roughing on a third-down sack. Al Woods then jumped offsides on what was about to be a 41-yard field-goal try. That gave the Saints a fresh set of downs and got them eight yards closer on their game-winning kick.
Carroll has said he's sticking with Smith for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wilson will then be eligible to come off injured reserve, meaning he could return to face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 10 following Seattle's bye, provided his surgically-repaired finger is ready by then.
"I would love to have had Russ just finish these last three games," Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle on Tuesday on his weekly radio show. "Just give me him in the fourth quarter and let him see what he can do. That's the magic that we've watched and that's what this program and our fans have counted on, myself included. We've all counted on that to happen. So now we have to help Geno get in that opportunity and come through with it and then we start building from there, and this is a great week to do that."