During his decade with the Seahawks — in which he has become the unquestioned greatest quarterback in franchise history — Russell Wilson’s greatest attribute has been his ability to close out games, to steal a phrase from baseball, his other favorite sport.

Wilson’s 35 fourth-quarter or overtime comebacks in 165 career games (including playoffs) since 2012 is the most in the NFL.

And as coach Pete Carroll on Tuesday lamented Seattle’s 2-5 start — its first since 2011, not-so-coincidentally the year before Wilson arrived — it’s Wilson’s late-game ability he seemed to miss the most since the quarterback headed to the sideline with an injured finger in the third quarter of a game against the Rams Oct. 7.

“I would love to have had Russ finish these last three games,” Carroll said during his weekly radio show on ESPN 710 Seattle. “Just give me him in the fourth quarter and let’s see what he can do. That’s the magic that we’ve watched. … We’ve all counted on that to happen, me included.”

Backup Geno Smith has not been able to pull the same rabbits out of his hat in Wilson’s absence the last three games. 

Saints 13, Seahawks 10

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An interception cost the Seahawks a chance to win the Rams game (albeit, one in which Tyler Lockett fell down after bumping into a Rams defender). A Smith fumble in overtime gave the Steelers a win last Sunday. And then Smith took three critical sacks in the fourth quarter that negated any chance for Seattle to beat the Saints Monday night.

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The result? Three losses by a total of 15 points, Seattle’s first three-game losing streak since 2011, the year before Wilson arrived.

“I can’t even stand the thought of it,” Carroll said of Seattle’s 2-5 record.

The loss dropped Seattle’s odds of making the playoffs to 17%, via FiveThirtyEight.com’s playoff calculator.

But to Carroll, the closeness of the games also indicates that maybe it won’t take much to get back into the playoff hunt, especially in a top-heavy NFC in which five teams are 5-1 or better but only one other team has more than three wins (the Saints, now 4-2), creating what will be a mad scramble for the last one or two wild card spots in what is now a seven-team playoff field.

With a backup QB in Smith and a forecast for windy and rainy conditions, Carroll said the Seahawks devised a conservative game plan to keep it close against the Saints.

Offensively, the Seahawks wanted to get the running game going and not have to relay too heavily on Smith and the passing game in what was his second start since 2017. 

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But just 90 yards rushing on 28 attempts — and only 44 on 22 from the running back duo of Alex Collins and Rashaad Penny — against a Saints run defense that ranked first in the NFL entering the game made it hard for the offense to move consistently.

Defensively, Seattle mostly eliminated big plays — Carroll’s No. 1 goal — other than during a late second-quarter drive in which the Saints moved 85 yards in seven plays for their only TD of the game. 

Saints running back Alvin Kamara, the only consistent offensive standout for either team, had four receptions for 64 yards on the drive, causing the Seahawks to begin double teaming him in the second half.

“It kind of came out like we thought,” Carroll said of it being a tight game in the fourth quarter. “We just needed to finish it and make a couple of plays at the end to get it done.”

But as Carroll noted, Seattle had two critical penalties on a final Saints drive for the winning field goal, including one for roughing the passer on Marquise Blair that wiped out a third-down sack.

That drive started at the 43 after Smith had taken an 11-yard loss on a sack on the previous Seattle drive that pushed a Jason Myers field goal attempt back to 53 yards and into the trickier, open end of the field, which he missed.

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Still, Seattle getting the ball back at its own 20 with 1:56 remaining and down 13-10 with one time out is a scenario the Seahawks have so often turned into victory in the Wilson era.

Instead, an incompletion was followed by sacks for losses of 8 and 10 yards and then a final, futile, desperation heave to DK Metcalf on fourth and 28 that was fittingly broken up by Saints linebacker Demario Davis, who was maybe the best player on the field.

“Two teams that had pretty much dedicated to taking care of the football and making sure that game was a close game,” Carroll said.

Seattle now has lost two games this year in overtime and two others decided in the final two minutes, all against teams with .500 or better records. 

In fact, all five Seattle losses are .500 or better with the two wins against the only two teams the Seahawks have played with losing records (Colts and 49ers).

The good news? Seattle has just four games left against teams who currently have winning records. 

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The bad news? Losing just those four would mean an 8-9 record and probably out of the playoff picture.

What Seattle needs is for Wilson to make the best-case-scenario recovery of returning for a Nov. 14 game at Green Bay. But that remains unclear with the Seahawks offering no specific ETA for his return.

Until then, Seattle has to manage business Sunday when the 1-5 Jacksonville Jaguars come to town for a Halloween game that projects to be far more ghoulish than anyone could have imagined when it was scheduled.

Carroll was harsh on Smith taking the sacks at the end saying that while he is managing the game well — Seattle has just one turnover in the last two games — “I would like to see him get the football out and be more open to throwing the ball away. … we took two, three sacks last night we shouldn’t have taken.”

But with the only other QBs on the roster being second-year players Jake Luton and Jacob Eason — the latter having just arrived last week — Smith is Seattle’s only option.

Asked if Smith will be the starter against the Jaguars, Carroll said: “Sure, yeah he is. And we are counting on him to just keep getting better and us to get better around him.”

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Carroll also gave a vote of confidence to first-year offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, noting he has had to adjust on the fly to life without Wilson, saying “I think he’s doing a really good job.”

And of Seattle’s conservative offensive philosophy without Wilson, Carroll said: “If you want to win a football game, you can’t play to what you want to be, you have to play to what you need to be.”

What the Seahawks have mostly found out they need is for Wilson to return as quickly as possible.