Seahawks search for answers as season starts to slip away

Tight ends shine for Panthers, Seahawks (1:29)

ESPN reporter David Newton and Sheil Kapadia give their game balls to Seattle TE Greg Olsen, who had a monster game with 7 catches for 131 yards and the game-winning touchdown, and TE Jimmy Graham, who had 8 catches for 140 yards in a losing effort. (1:29)

SEATTLE -- Shortly after the Seattle Seahawks' 27-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers Sunday, cornerback Richard Sherman sat at his locker and tried to explain to a group of reporters what had happened.

To his left was Cary Williams, who sat in full uniform, head in his hands. To his right was safety Earl Thomas, standing up, hands on his knees, staring at the ground, oblivious to those walking past him.

Running back Marshawn Lynch had already showered and changed. He got a handshake from Russell Wilson and then slipped his headphones on his ears.

The Seahawks know the main issue that has pushed them to 2-4. The team has blown fourth-quarter leads in each of its losses this season. One of the core tenets of coach Pete Carroll's philosophy is to finish, and right now, no team in the league is doing a worse job of that than the Seahawks.

"I know you guys don't want to hear it," Carroll said. "But we have six games we should have won, and we know that."

The fourth-quarter numbers are staggering. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton went 12-for-15 for 162 yards and a touchdown in the final 15 minutes. Aside from a spike to stop the clock, he completed his final 11 pass attempts.

On the season, opposing quarterbacks are 52-for-63 (82.5 percent) for 611 yards (9.7 YPA), four touchdowns and no interceptions in the fourth quarter or overtime against the Seahawks.

The play many will be talking about Monday is the 26-yard game-winning touchdown to Panthers tight end Greg Olsen. Thomas and Sherman explained they were in two different coverages on the play.

"It just was a confusion about what call we were in," Sherman said. "There were a couple calls being signaled in that were different. And the game's at a fast pace, so you've got to make a decision."

Added Thomas: "We had some people playing L.A. We had some people playing another [coverage]. I don't know, man. We didn't get it. We didn't finish. It's tough.

Coach [Kris] Richard said he called L.A. Sherm was playing L.A., which is true, and I was playing a Cover 3. Kam [Chancellor] was playing Cover 3 also. The whole back side was playing Cover 3. But I think Sherm was so close to the sideline, he got the correct call. But we didn't get the job done."

As Chris Brown of Grantland points out, L.A. is Carroll's call for Cover 2. The massive miscommunication left Olsen wide open and couldn't have come at a worse time.

After the locker room had mostly cleared out, members of the secondary gathered for an impromptu meeting -- with Sherman and Chancellor in their towels and Williams, Thomas and DeShawn Shead still in uniform. This is, for the most part, the group that has led the Seahawks to consecutive Super Bowls. Now it's the group charged with turning around a season that could be slipping away.

"It's very frustrating," Thomas said. "Especially when, you know, we had them. We don't suck. We know who we are. We're not finishing. We know we're going to be in those pressure situations every game. We know that."

The concerning part for the Seahawks is it might not be as simple as the defense's failing to finish. According to ESPN Stats & Information, this was the first time in 15 years that the Seahawks allowed four touchdown drives of 80 yards at home.

Offensively, the Seahawks got the ball with 3:55 left and a three-point lead. If offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had confidence in the running game, that would have been the time to hand it off to Lynch and let him run the clock out. Instead, Bevell went with five straight passes. A Lynch holding penalty and a Wilson sack turned first-and-10 into fourth-and-23. The Panthers got the ball back with 2:20 left.

"We were trying to stay in attack mode, trying to find ways to get first downs," Wilson said. "They did a good job. We backed ourselves up a few times. That puts you in a tough position. You have to be able to not allow that to happen and stay the course and stay on schedule."

The Seahawks insist the sky is not falling. They could beat the 49ers and Cowboys, enter the bye 4-4 and still be in the mix for a playoff spot. But it's just as possible this defense is not as good as it has been the previous two seasons and the offense's search for identity will continue into December.

With a loss Thursday to the 49ers, the Seahawks would be in last place in the NFC West.

"The best thing to do is not to read the papers because propaganda and perception is everything," defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. "So once people start believing what you guys are saying, then the doubt starts to creep in. That's something you can't do.

"You have to keep believing and making sure that you've got the right mindset. It's all about your mindset. Once you start believing in the nonsense, you start thinking that you're like that. At the end of the day, we've still got a long season."