RENTON — Sunday marks the Seahawks’ first game in Miami since Nov. 25, 2012, a day that also stands as maybe the last time — if not the only time — people seriously questioned where things were headed for Seattle under coach Pete Carroll.
A last-play 24-21 loss in a game the Seahawks were favored to win dropped Seattle to 6-5 on the season and further clouded the team’s playoff hopes.
And nearing the end of his third season Carroll left Miami that day with just a 20-23 record with the Seahawks.
Worse, after the game it was revealed cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner were being suspended four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs (Sherman would appeal and have the suspension overturned).
The Seahawks in that moment looked like a talented but rudderless team destined for another season of disappointment.
A week later, as underdogs on the road against an 8-3 Chicago team, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson led two late drives to give Seattle an overtime win, a performance often viewed as the day Wilson convinced any still-skeptical teammates that he was the real deal.
Seattle is 83-36-1 since that long flight home from Miami, the bonafides of Carroll and Wilson having long since been established and two Super Bowls having been reached.
As they make another trip to Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, the Seahawks are one of just seven remaining undefeated teams at 3-0 with Wilson playing so historically well that the only question is when there will inevitably be a regression to the mean. Wilson is on pace for 75 touchdown passes, which would better Peyton Manning’s record set in 2013 by 20.
Or maybe there doesn’t have to be one?
“There’s always room for improvement,’’ Wilson insisted this week, despite an 82.5% completion rate and having tossed the most touchdown passes of any QB in NFL history in the first three games with 14. “I think there’s always room for growth.’’
As an example, Wilson then singled out a third-down pass to Tyler Lockett in the first half of the Dallas game that he threw short.
Seahawks fans will probably forgive him for that one.
Wilson, of course, essentially threw six touchdown passes last Sunday, if you consider DK Metcalf’s fumble (though maybe the final comeback isn’t needed if that doesn’t happen).
But Wilson wouldn’t be who he is if he didn’t think he and the offense can still get better.
“I believe there’s a whole ‘nother space that we can go to with this offense,’’ Wilson said this week in a Zoom call with media. “And that’s what I’m searching for. That’s what I’m passionate about right now is, you know, how much farther can we go?’’
If the Seattle offense is scary to opponents right now — the Seahawks are second in the NFL at 37 points per game and have scored touchdowns on all nine of their red-zone possessions, or inside the 20 — it’s the Seahawks defense that scares the team’s fans.
And the really scary thing for the Seahawks is that Wilson’s hope that the offense can actually get better may have to come true for Seattle to continue winning.
Seattle is allowing 28.7 points per game, 22nd in the NFL, which would be the second worst in team history behind only the 30.6 of the first year the Seahawks played in 1976.
And that’s with strong safety Jamal Adams, who has been Seattle’s best defensive player in the first three games.
Adams, though, will sit out Sunday with a strained groin, as will starting right cornerback Quinton Dunbar, two players the Seahawks acquired via trade in the offseason with the hope of again forming an imposing secondary.
And while Miami quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is notably erratic, he’s good enough to do lots of damage with Seattle not only without Adams and Dunbar but also in their second game without Bruce Irvin, who was signed in the offseason to boost the pass rush, and starting nickel Marquise Blair.
That’s four of what were essentially the top 12 Seattle defensive players entering the season who won’t be in action Sunday (though Ugo Amadi has so far done a fine job replacing Blair).
So, a shootout is probably again in order of the kind at odds with how Carroll was building the Seahawks the last time the team was in Miami.
Then, Seattle led with its running game and defense, the Seahawks in 2012 allowing only one team all year to score as many as the 28 points that this year’s team is allowing on average.
That led to Carroll being asked this week what it’s like coaching a team so different in style from much of the rest of his Seattle tenure.
“As always, we’re trying to adapt and grow and do what’s best with our guys,’’ he said. “And I’m not giving up on the fact that we’re going to be knocking these yards in half here.’’
But if they don’t or can’t anytime soon — Adams could be out until after the bye that follows a game against Minnesota next week —- they’ll at least have Wilson and an offense that shows no signs of letting up.
“We’ve been darn near great, almost perfect in a lot of different ways,’’ Wilson said. “But there’s still a lot more room to grow. … there’s a difference between streaks and just being in the zone, and I think that we’re definitely in the zone, and I think that we want to stay in that zone, stay locked in.’’
Given the defensive struggles, the temptation is to say they’ll need to for a while. Conversely, beat the Dolphins and then a game against struggling Minnesota in which Seattle has already been set as a 9.5-point favorite in early lines on Vegas Insider awaits.
That presents the appetizing prospect of Seattle being 5-0 heading into its bye, and no one anywhere questioning the direction of the Seahawks.