ARLINGTON, Texas -- Before the Seattle Seahawks’ offense took the field down 12-10 with 6:42 left in Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, quarterback Russell Wilson and coach Pete Carroll had a brief conversation.
"We were talking on the sideline with six minutes left," Carroll recalled. "And he says, ‘Hey, this is one of those games. We’ve got to go win it right now.’ He just doesn’t waver from that. That undying sense that something good will happen is alive in him."
The Seahawks went on to put together a 17-play, 79-yard drive that resulted in the decisive field goal by Steven Hauschka in Seattle's 13-12 win. Instead of what could have been a season-crippling loss, the Seahawks will go into the bye with a 4-4 record.
"It was right before we had our drive," Wilson said. "And I just kind of smiled at him and said, ‘This is what we’re here for.’ We enjoy those moments. I don’t fear ’em. I look forward to ’em."
This is a veteran group, and the Seahawks know every win is not going to be pretty. They’re aware the defense, which has not allowed a touchdown in the past eight quarters, is the strength of the team. And they surely would agree that 4-4 going into the bye sounds a little bit better than 3-5.
But questions remain about where this season is headed. The Seahawks' wins have come against quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen, Matthew Stafford, Colin Kaepernick and Matt Cassel. Those four wins were against teams with a combined record of 7-23. The four games Seattle has lost have been against teams that are 23-4.
"We made it back to even," Carroll said. "I don’t think it feels much different than it did last year. It was very similar. It’s unfortunate that it takes us a while. We’re working our way through it. If we’re able to put the second half together like we plan on, then we’ll be really proud of that. Where we are right now, I feel like we’re OK. I know nobody else probably does, but I feel like we’re OK right now, and we’re ready to work."
Carroll is in many ways defined by his optimism, and the players in the locker room have fed off it.
But can this team accomplish what last season's group did? The 2014 Seahawks started 3-3 before winning nine of their final 10 and advancing to the Super Bowl.
The defense is playing at a high level. The Seahawks have not allowed a touchdown in their past two games. And perhaps most importantly, they’ll have all 11 starters healthy when they return to practice next week.
The offense is a different story. Carroll and Wilson have the right to point to the final drive, which led to a victory. But the bottom line is this was an ugly offensive performance against a defense that has been mediocre at best.
On nine offensive possessions, the Seahawks managed one touchdown and two field goals. They had four three-and-outs and once again lost the turnover battle after Wilson threw his sixth interception of the season. (Wilson had seven picks all of last season.)
Asked if he has a sense that everything’s coming together, Carroll said: "Yeah, I do feel like that. They feel like that, too. I think last week had something to do with that also. We know that we played really well in those couple of games we let get away from us against Cincinnati and Carolina. We knew that. We knew what happened, and unfortunately, they got away from us. Those are games that you look at the other way around -- those could have been dominant games for us, and we didn’t get it done. It’s there to be had."
The Seahawks are healthy on offense, too. Left tackle Russell Okung is expected to be back after the bye. And the offensive line didn’t give up a sack Sunday. But the inconsistency has been maddening. Wilson has been throwing well from the pocket for most of the season, but he was erratic against the Cowboys, going 19-of-30 for 210 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Marshawn Lynch is averaging 3.64 yards per carry, which ranks 40th out of 50 qualifying players, according to ESPN Stats & Information. If that number stays steady, it would be the second-worst mark of his career and a full yard worse than last season’s average.
The Seahawks entered Sunday with the worst red zone touchdown percentage (33.3) in the NFL, and they went 0-for-2 against the Cowboys.
The bottom line is Sunday’s win did very little to answer questions about the direction of this team. It’s reasonable to expect the defense to play at a Super Bowl level in the second half of the season.
And while the offense doesn’t have to be an elite unit, it needs to play better than it's playing right now. That’s where the fixes are needed if the Seahawks are going to go on a run after the bye.