A loss to Carolina on Sunday would drop the Seahawks to two games under .500. A win, though, would get the Seahawks back to .500 with the schedule then turning somewhat favorable.
So the Seahawks again are at the Carolina crossroads.
It’s been an odd quirk of the NFL schedule that Sunday marks the fourth year in a row the Seahawks have faced the Carolina Panthers in the regular season (and a divisional playoff game in January).
Maybe odder is that each result eventually seemed to take on greater importance.
In 2012, a Seahawks team trying to find its way under rookie quarterback Russell Wilson held on to win 16-12 at Carolina and improve to 3-2. It was the kind of hold-on victory that helped set the stage for the late-season run that marked the true beginning of the Pete Carroll era in Seattle.
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In 2013, a Seahawks team considered among the favorites to win the Super Bowl opened the season at Carolina. The Panthers were driving for a possible winning touchdown in the final minutes; a loss might have had many questioning whether the Seahawks could hold up under the pressure of being a favorite. But Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas teamed to force a DeAngelo Williams fumble that preserved a 12-7 victory.
In 2014, a 3-3 Seahawks team reeling from two consecutive losses sandwiched around the controversial Percy Harvin trade traveled again to Charlotte, N.C., and used a Wilson-to-Luke Willson touchdown pass with 47 seconds left to take a 13-9 victory. That began a stretch of nine victories in 10 games, which helped propel the Seahawks to another Super Bowl.
Now with another season at a critical juncture, the Seahawks again play the Panthers, only this time in Seattle at CenturyLink Field.
Last Sunday a 17-point blown lead that led to an overtime loss at Cincinnati left the Seahawks at 2-3. The Seahawks travel to San Francisco for a game Thursday night, a contest that looms dangerous in concluding what is a rugged stretch of four games in 18 days.
A win, though, would get the Seahawks back to .500 with the schedule then turning somewhat favorable.
“This is the week to get moving,’’ Carroll said.
Many players, though, said comparisons with similar points in similar seasons are good fodder for the media and fans but are largely irrelevant.
“We are a completely different team,’’ receiver Doug Baldwin said. “Different situation. Every year, every day is a different day. We are fighting to find our best again. And we’ll get there.’’
Indeed, the larger sentiment in the Seahawks’ locker room this week was that the Cincinnati loss, though disappointing because of the result, showed how good they can still be.
For three quarters, the Seahawks pushed around an undefeated team on its home field, a game played on a short week following a tough Monday-night contest.
They also kept in check one of the NFL’s top passing offenses before everything fell apart.
“I don’t think we’re far at all,’’ Sherman said in response to those speculating that the Seahawks — and specifically the defense — aren’t what they were the previous two seasons.
“Sometimes you get the bounces,” he said, “and sometimes you don’t. That game (against the Bengals) we didn’t get the bounces. The Rams game, we didn’t get the bounces. The years before, we got the bounces. We didn’t get them this year. We’ve got to see how the season goes from here on. Maybe things will change.”
For that to happen, the Seahawks likely will have to win another slug-it-out affair with the Panthers.
Though they have won four games against Carolina since 2012 (including the playoff game), the total margin of victory is just 27 points, with the Seahawks taking the three regular-season games by a 41-28 total score.
Both teams again feature many of the same faces and fairly similar looks as the previous four meetings.
Both, for instance, have running games and defenses ranked among the top 10 in the NFL, characteristics that have the feel of the games from the past three seasons.
“Their defense is really cranking again this season,’’ Carroll said of the Panthers, who will have star middle linebacker Luke Kuechly back in the lineup after missing three games with a concussion. “I think when you put our defenses together, it’s kind of shaped the formula for those (past) games.’’
If it’s another game with a similar formula leading to a result that turns the season the way the Seahawks want, they’ll take that, too.