The score: Browns 6, Seahawks 3.
The location: Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The date: Oct. 23, 2011.
The headline in the next day’s Seattle Times: “How low can they go?”
Those are the basic details of the last game the Seahawks played in Cleveland, which stands as perhaps the most forgettable performance of the Pete Carroll era for Seattle.
It is game, anyway, Carroll would like to forget.
“I don’t want to remember any of it,” the 10th-year coach said this week.
Linebacker K.J. Wright is the only current Seahawk who played in that game in Cleveland eight years ago. He doesn’t remember a whole lot from that day either.
“That was a long time ago. The only thing I remember is how baaaad it was,” he said.
The Seahawks, of course, bring a much different team and much greater expectations to Cleveland for a 10 a.m. PDT kickoff Sunday. At 4-1, the Seahawks are among the top contenders in the NFC, set to face a young Browns team (2-3) reeling from a 31-3 loss at San Francisco on Monday night.
The loss in Cleveland in 2011 left the Seahawks similarly reeling. It was, and remains, the lowest-scoring game in Seattle franchise history, their record dropping to 2-4. That started a three-game midseason stretch in which the Seahawks went 0-3 and were outscored 63-28 in losses to the Browns, Bengals and Cowboys.
Oh, it was a fledgling group Carroll brought to Ohio in his second season, a team still searching for a clear direction and a distinct identity.
“How low can they go?” That stretch, in hindsight, was rock bottom for the Seahawks under Carroll.
As he reflected more about that 2011 season, Wright remembered mostly frustration. A starting outside linebacker as a rookie, he didn’t like being subbed out in nickel packages — replaced by another notable rookie, cornerback Richard Sherman.
“He would go in and I would come out, and I hated going off the field,” Wright said.
Wright actually had one of his best games of his rookie season against the Browns: seven tackles, one tackle for loss, and he recovered one of Red Bryant’s two blocked field-goal attempts.
He also happily recalled one particular play from safety Kam Chancellor. It happened in the fourth quarter, when Browns running back Montario Hardesty broke into the open field, only to be greeted by Chancellor with a full-speed body slam.
“Dude was running full speed and he stopped him in his tracks. That was one of the coolest plays I’ve seen Kam make,” Wright said.
So that 2011 midseason slide was nadir, but Seattle’s defense soon started to turn a corner.
A week after the loss in Cleveland, Sherman made his first career start against the Bengals, marking the first time Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner and Sherman would all start together. Their famous “Legion of Boom” nickname was christened early the next year, in August 2012.
“We were super young (and) didn’t know how to win,” Wright said. “It’s part of the growing process. When you start playing, guys get confident … and it was a good start for us.”
It would take longer for the offense to break through.
Marshawn Lynch had suited up but ultimately sat out that Browns game because of back spams.
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was also injured, giving way to Charlie Whitehurst for the first of his back-to-back starts for the Seahawks. Russell Wilson was playing for the Wisconsin Badgers at the time — the Seahawks would draft him in the third round seven months later — and Seattle’s offense didn’t have much going for it.
But a turning point arrived soon: Once Lynch got healthy, the Seahawks fed Beast Mode like never before.
What happened next?
“You saw what we did the next two, three, four years,” Wright said. “It was real special.”
The Seahawks snapped their midseason losing skid with a 22-17 victory over Baltimore, which started a run of five wins in six games in the second half of the season.
Wright and Sherman became entrenched as rookie starters, and the defense allowed just 16.3 points per game in the second half of the season.
Lynch ran for 941 yards in the final eight games, averaging 23.5 carries per game, with eight touchdowns, as the Seahawks reached .500, at 7-7, before close losses to San Francisco and Arizona to close out the 2011 season at 7-9.
So the pieces were in place, and the stage was set. You saw what happened next.