RENTON — Even if the Seahawks could never get a handle on the Rams in their game last Sunday, what they didn’t lose in Los Angeles was control of their season.
In what was pretty much the first thing coach Pete Carroll said to his team after the rout by the Rams — just the sixth time in the Russell Wilson era the Seahawks have lost by 10 or more points — Seattle was still basically in the same spot before the game as it was after when it comes to the team’s long-range goals.
Meaning, if the Seahawks win out, then the NFC West is theirs, as is at least a No. 2 seed in the NFC, a bye in the first round of the playoffs and a home game in the second (the Seahawks control the tiebreakers on Green Bay if each finishes 13-3, and winning out would mean beating the 49ers one more time and getting the tiebreaker on San Francisco).
But while Seattle knew going into last Sunday’s game that the safety net would still exist no matter what happened, the Seahawks can’t count on that any more.
Both the 49ers (11 points at home against Atlanta) and the Packers (4½ at home against Chicago) are favored and if Seattle stumbles in Carolina against the Panthers, then savvy Seahawks fans might start booking tickets to Dallas or Philly for the first weekend of January.
All of which means the Seahawks will again have to rely on a reputation for resiliency that is among their most-prized possessions.
Seattle has lost two games in a row just seven times since Wilson became QB in 2012 (and never three in a row) with players saying one key is that after the Tell the Truth Monday review of the game they pretty much forget it.
“I feel that’s probably why we’re so successful after a loss is because we’re able to move on from it and not let it linger into the next game,’’ middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said Thursday.
Some Seattle players, though, said there might have been some value this week in not forgetting their sordid L.A. Story quite that quickly.
The defeat not only snapped a five-game winning streak but exposed issues with the pass rush (no sacks) and pass protection (five sacks allowed) while also exhibiting what at times just seemed like some overall sloppiness (two key dropped passes that killed early drives on offense, issues getting lined up correctly on defense).
All things that Seattle can’t let linger long if it wants to make anything of any postseason berth it might get.
“I don’t want to say you need those things to happen to you, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing, you know what I mean?’’ linebacker K.J. Wright said. “We was rolling, got this five-game winning streak and so we kind of got hit in the mouth. And sometimes when you get in a boxing match you get hit in the mouth and you see how you respond. And I believe that this is going to be a time that we can really show how we can respond as a team and that that loss was not necessarily a really bad thing.’’
In what might have rankled some of the vets more than anything, Wright said he felt the Seahawks “got outphysicaled’’ by the Rams, as well.
“That one was just demoralizing from pretty much beginning to end,’’ he said. “It was a bad day here on Monday. Felt really bad. We hadn’t felt that way in a while and so when you lose you do everything in your power to not get that feeling again.’’
Of course, the Seahawks should be able to beat the Panthers without needing that sort of extra incentive at this point. Carolina is 5-8, losers of its past five and playing its second game under interim coach Perry Fewell, who replaced the fired Ron Rivera.
The Panthers are also balanced, ranking 21st in total offense with the shine of second-year quarterback Kyle Allen having dimmed considerably after some early success stepping in for injured Cam Newton, and 24th in total defense with a lot of big-name players showing signs of injury/age/ineffectiveness or some combination of all three.
But this being the NFL and the two teams having a history of to-the-wire contests — they have played six times in the regular season since 2012 and five have been decided by five points or less — Seattle players said they head to Carolina with no illusions of an easy day.
“We know what kind of game it’s going to be,’’ Wright said. “It’s going to be close.’’
Which is just fine — other than on the hearts of Seahawks fans who have also rarely had an easy day this season — just as long as they still emerge with control.