RENTON -- Under head coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have always prided themselves on finishing games strong.
The ability to win tight games is a key component of Seattle's success through the Carroll era, particularly given just how many close games the team tends to play. However, the Seahawks have had trouble finding victories in close games over the last calendar year.
Dating back to last November, the Seahawks are 1-8 in their last nine games decided by one-score (eight points) or less. They are 1-4 this season with their only victory in such a scenario coming against the Arizona Cardinals in Week Four with a 20-17 win.
"It’s just unfortunate that we haven’t triggered the right play at the right time at the end and they’ve been one or two plays to finish the game off where we can come back and put the points up or stop them one more time," Carroll said. "It is frustrating, but it is also very encouraging that we’re so clearly on track with the style that we’re trying to play with so we just have to turn those into wins.
During Russell Wilson's tenure as the starting quarterback, the Seahawks were 24-22-1 in one-score games prior to their recent run of losses. They are now 25-30-1 in games decided by eight points or less going back to last season.
Atlanta (34-31), at Jacksonville (30-24), Arizona (26-24), at Denver (27-24), at Chicago (24-17), L.A. Rams (33-31), L.A. Chargers (25-17) and at Rams (36-31) are their eight defeats over that span.
"I think there is two things there, Wilson said on Tuesday of the recent lack of wins in close games. "First of all, I think it goes back to finishing right. I think that if we can make one of two plays here and there across the board, whether if it’s offense, defense, special teams, whatever it may be, we can turn that around really easily – that’s the great thing.
"I think the second thing is, like you said, the great thing is we’re in every game and every game is really, really close and every game we were right there to win the game. I’m looking forward to that turning around, I’m looking forward to that. We have great confidence in that and what we are going to do."
The Seahawks built a reputation of being the most difficult team to beat in the NFL. They had a streak of 95 consecutive games where they didn't lose a game by more than 10 points between Oct. 2011 and Dec. 2016, a span of over five full years. When the deficits were lopsided in a team's advantage, it was always the Seahawks on the winning side. Even when they lost they were in the game and had a chance to get a victory.
That ended when the Green Bay Packers - Thursday night's opponent - thrashed Seattle with a 38-10 loss late in the 2016 season as Wilson was intercepted five times. The Seahawks experienced another blowout defeat last December, losing 42-7 to the Los Angeles Rams as a depleted defense couldn't slow the Rams offense.
The Seahawks are mostly playing to a similar script as in their most successful seasons this year. Their four victories have come by 11, 3, 24 and 14 points over Dallas, Arizona, Oakland and Detroit. Their remaining five games have all been tight, one-score games. The difference is Seattle isn't pulling those games out like they have in the past.
"It's hard to tell," left tackle Duane Brown said of why they haven't been able to get those difference-making plays. "I think we've had games where penalties have been the deciding factor. Last week, I had to be better in that two-minute drill. Turnovers, it's a couple things - just speaking for us offensively. But it's never a lack of effort. We've had a couple games where we are down two scores and we find ways to get there right at the end. I can't put my finger on what it is, we've just got to continue to make plays. We just got to make a couple more plays than the other team. That's what it's come down to."
In the last two weeks, the Seahawks have lost the turnover battle with the turnovers coming in critical spots. Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Desmond King had a pick-six of Wilson that put Seattle in a two-score deficit in the fourth quarter. L.A. Rams defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. had a strip-sack of Wilson that quickly set up a touchdown that forced Seattle into a two-score hole as well.
The Seahawks got the needed touchdowns to get back within reach of their opponents but ran out of time and opportunities to get the tying or go-ahead scores they needed.
"Obviously the last two games, the turnovers in the fourth quarter were big. We know that," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "We've been able to overcome them to a point. We get within a yard against the Chargers, we're kind of rallying back against the Rams and we just need to do a better job of finishing."
If even half of those games flip in Seattle's favor this season, they're sitting pretty in the playoff chase. As it is now, the Rams could clinch the NFC West as soon as this weekend if the Seahawks were to lose to Green Bay Thursday night and the Rams beat the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night. At 4-5, the Seahawks will have to make a big run down the stretch with the Packers, Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings and Chiefs as teams still left on their schedule.
The margin of error the Seahawks used to enjoy just isn't there any longer. However, if they find a way to get on the winning end of some of these close games over the second half of the season, it could be enough to allow Seattle to return to the postseason.
"It’s finishing at the right time, making the right play," Carroll said. We’ve been so good at those games for such a long time that the fact that it’s not happening is a little bit unusual. I’m disappointed because we’ve been able to always feel like we’re going to win those games and do it. We still have the same mentality about it and attitude about it, but we’ve got to show it. We’ve got to get those finishes done."
Running back Chris Carson, strong safety Bradley McDougald and right guard D.J. Fluker are all ready to play Thursday night against the Packers.
None of the three players were listed on the team's final injury report of the week, indicating they are ready to play. Carroll confirmed their availability after practice on Wednesday.
"He's full speed ready to go," Carroll said of Carson. "Both those guys (Carson and Fluker) are really hungry to play again. They were close enough that they might have been able to play last week but they probably would not have been able to finish. I think all of our work and collaboration to figure this one out worked out well and both guys are raring to get out there and should be able to put up a good showing.
On McDougald, Carroll said last week's light work put him in a better position with his ailing knee.
"Bradley feels great," Carroll said. "What we did a week ago in working him in his rehab really took and he's made a big jump and he's feeling really positive about that. He's been a very special player for us this year and he's been a little bit hampered the last couple weeks so it's great to have him back. I think he's full go and we're counting on that."
Linebacker K.J. Wright is officially listed as doubtful and did not practice during the week.
"We're going to go up to game time and see how it works out," Carroll said. "He's a gallant competitor and we'll see what it means but right now we've got it as doubtful."
Safeties Delano Hill (quadriceps) and Maurice Alexander (elbow), cornerback Neiko Thorpe (groin) and defensive end Dion Jordan (knee) are questionable.
Carroll said Hill would be able to play if the game was on Sunday, but the short week leaves his status in doubt. Thorpe returned to practice this week after missing the last several weeks, but Carroll referenced the upcoming extended break as potentially advantageous for Thorpe to have.
Jordan is coming off his best game of the season but the team is being careful and monitoring his knee injury.
"Just wear and tear," Carroll said. "... We just want to make sure to take care of him. There's a lot of games left. We got to make some good decisions to make sure we're handling him well in taking care of his knee.
The Packers ruled out cornerback Kevin King (hamstring), wide receiver Randall Cobb (hamstring), linebacker Nick Perry (knee) and safety Kentrell Brice (ankle).
Photo Credit: LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Wide receiver Robert Woods #17 of the Los Angeles Rams is tackled by cornerback Shaquill Griffin #26 and free safety Tedric Thompson #33 of the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)