RENTON, Wash. (AP) — The perception coming out of another prime-time showcase is the Seattle Seahawks put forth a gutty effort and had every chance to end the Dallas Cowboys' long winning streak after outplaying them for chunks of the night.
The reality is the Seahawks are struggling in many ways.
They’ve lost three straight. They’ve lost four of the last five. And a high-priced defense has let them down over the past month.
Nevertheless, Pete Carroll remained steadfast in his confidence about where the Seahawks stand a day after the 41-35 loss to Dallas. In fact, Carroll believes his team may be as prepared for the playoffs as they’ve ever been by what they’ve experienced during this season.
There’s only one small issue that needs to first be overcome for Carroll’s belief to be tested: Seattle must find a way to make the playoffs. And right now, at 6-6, that’s no sure thing.
“I just believe we’re of that caliber,” Carroll said Friday. “We have to find our way through it and get there. I don’t know that there’s enough games. Maybe there isn’t. Maybe we run out of games. I don’t know. But we’re going to have to make some big noise here in the next couple of weeks. And then we've got to just keep on going.”
There were takeaways that provided optimism about Seattle moving forward. Geno Smith was terrific and played in rhythm. DK Metcalf had a monster performance with three TDs. Rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba had the most productive game of his rookie season.
But countering that are continued problems with penalties and a defense that never forced Dallas to punt in 11 possessions. Only once in the past five games has Seattle held an opponent under 25 points.
“There is just something small that is lacking right now that we can tighten up and finish these close games,” defensive tackle Leonard Williams said. “I feel like we have all the talent in the world. The talent is there. The want to is there.”
Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron was subtly called out last week by Carroll. It wasn’t a direct condemnation, but the words Carroll used made it clear he expected changes.
Those changes happened and Seattle had its best offensive game of the season. Protections were adjusted to make sure Smith had time and when he did face pressure, there were options that allowed him to get the ball out quickly. Seattle played with an offensive tempo that had been seriously lacking.
Despite the improvement, Waldron’s fourth-down calls all failed in the fourth quarter where just one conversion might have changed the outcome.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Seattle and Dallas were the two most penalized teams in the league leading up to Thursday and they lived up to that billing. The Seahawks were flagged 10 times for 130 yards and several of them were significant to the outcome. Riq Woolen was called for a 47-yard pass interference. A disputed delay of game pushed a field goal attempt from Jason Myers back 5 yards and he subsequently missed. Tre Brown was called for defensive holding and illegal contact on the same drive.
That looked like the version of Smith that earned accolades last season. He was quick to get the ball out of his hands. He trusted his wide receivers. He made some terrific throws when facing pressure and counterpunched almost every big play made by Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott. If Seattle can get performances like that from Smith the next two weeks, it’ll have a chance against two top opponents.
Jamal Adams played all but one snap and finished with 10 tackles. But it was not a good game for Adams. There were a handful of tackles Adams appeared to miss, but the moment that stood out came when he was unable to find the ball on Jake Ferguson’s 12-yard TD catch with 4:37 left that proved to be the deciding score. Adams was not in position and flailed late trying to deflect the pass. It was not a good look.
Seattle came out of the loss with two injuries of note, although the significance of either is still to be determined. Starting linebacker Jordyn Brooks suffered a sprained ankle that didn’t allow him to play in the second half. Brooks was in for just 26 plays but did manage to pick up a sack.
Running back Zach Charbonnet suffered a knee bruise in the fourth quarter on one of Seattle’s failed fourth-down attempts.
Carroll also did not have an updated timeline on starting running back Kenneth Walker III, who has missed the past two games with an oblique injury.
36-1 — Seattle had been unbeaten under Carroll when scoring at least 35 points in a game. The last time Seattle lost when scoring 35 points was Week 17 of 2007, when it dropped a 44-41 game at Atlanta. Carroll lost only one game as a college head coach when allowing 35 or more points – the 2005 BCS title game vs. Texas when USC lost 41-38.
The Seahawks get an extended weekend off, but the challenge only gets more difficult. Seattle travels to San Francisco on Dec. 10, a team has won four straight in the series and thumped the Seahawks 31-13 on Thanksgiving.
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