Seahawks face new test trying to rally in 2nd half of season

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RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Even in his 12th season, Pete Carroll is facing a new challenge.

The Seattle Seahawks reached the midpoint of the schedule with a 3-5 record. Only one other time in Carroll’s tenure have the Seahawks had a losing record at the time of their bye. That came in 2011 when Seattle reached its break at 2-3. It’s also one of the two seasons the Seahawks failed to make the playoffs since Carroll’s arrival.

While Carroll has always preached being at their best in the final quarter of the season, the Seahawks have regularly put themselves in that position by not falling too far behind early on. Which is why the position Seattle finds itself is so notable. If the Seahawks are to make the playoffs yet again, they will need to rally in a way they haven’t needed in the past.

“I hope that we can kick it into high gear,” Carroll said. “We have been close enough and have been on the topic, knowing that we have a lot of good things going for us. We just have to bring them together, finish some games off, and knock these wins in a boat.”

Of course, what’s made this season different is Seattle playing three-plus games without Russell Wilson for the first time in his career. Seattle would potentially have two more wins if Wilson had not been sidelined due to a finger injury on his throwing hand that required surgery.

Wilson was cleared Monday to return to football activities and could possibly play this week against Green Bay. With what appears to be a favorable schedule the rest of the way, a late run by Seattle back into contention is entirely possible.

“We know how we are,” Seattle safety Jamal Adams said. “We know exactly who we are as a team when we pull it all together and we go out there and execute, we’re a pretty good team.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Give a hat tip to Seattle’s defense that was on a record pace for yards allowed early in the season but has made a quick correct. In the pass game, the Seahawks have been better at not giving up big plays and improved at following assignments and not getting out of position on underneath and intermediate throws.

The run defense is where Seattle needs to see continued improvement. Seattle has held its past two opponents under 100 yards rushing.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Even with the arrival of Shane Waldron as offensive coordinator, Seattle still wanted to feature the run game as a primary factor of its offense. Through a combination of injuries and underperformance by the running backs and offensive line, the Seahawks have gotten very little from their run game. Seattle ranks 21st in yards rushing, 20th in rushing attempts and 19th in yards per carry.

STOCK UP

Quandre Diggs will be a free agent after this season and the cost for his services seems to be rising by the week. While Seattle’s defense struggled early, Diggs has been mostly solid throughout and is at the core of the team's defensive improvements heading into the bye.

Diggs is fourth on the team in tackles and has all three of Seattle’s interceptions.

STOCK DOWN

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap was thought to be the key to the turnaround for the defense, and specifically the pass rush, that was made a season ago. It’s why Seattle gave Dunlap a healthy contract for this season.

So far, he ranks near the top of underachievers for the Seahawks. Dunlap has 12 total tackles, four quarterback hits and one-half sack in the eight games he’s played. He’s played at least 50% of the snaps in five of the eight games. The production needs a significant uptick the second half of the season.

INJURIES

While all eyes will be on Wilson and when he’ll return, another big injury question is the status of running back Chris Carson, who has missed the past four games due to a neck issue. Carson is expected to try practicing this week, but there is no guarantee Seattle’s top running back will be back this week or anytime soon.

KEY NUMBER

9-16 — The combined opposition record of Seattle’s three victories so far — Indianapolis, San Francisco and Jacksonville — is 9-16. The current record of Seattle’s eight remaining opponents is 39-38.

NEXT STEPS

The next two weeks will really set the table for the rest of Seattle’s season. Somehow win in Green Bay — a place Seattle hasn’t won since 1999 — and beat Arizona at home and the Seahawks will be very well positioned. Split the two games, and the Seahawks are in OK shape with the way the rest of the schedule shakes out. Lose both and Carroll and company will need to be nearly perfect the rest of the way to have a shot at the playoffs.

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More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Tim Booth, The Associated Press

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