"To Be GMC Professional Grade you must build upon your strengths. Look at your team now and assess what it does best. Is it running the football? How about pass defense? How about throwing the ball deep? Do they find creative ways to win? Let me know how you would build on that success to get your team into the playoffs."
To me, the Seahawks' ultimate identity is that of toughness. On offense, they want to run the football, control the tempo, control the clock, and every once in a while, throw it deep to create explosive plays. Win or lose, they want you to feel like you played a tough, hard-fought game. On defense, it's the same -- toughness is the identity. They want to take away your run game, make you one dimensional, and then flummox and demoralize you by limiting plays over the top and creating turnovers.
During the first half of the season, we saw flashes of that identity. It showed up early against Green Bay and Denver, but disappeared against San Diego and Dallas. Over the past two weeks, they seem to be, as Pete Carroll put it, "recapturing" that ethos and identity. Carroll has talked about it a lot this week.
"It was really a great accomplishment," he said Monday, about beating the Raiders while extremely short-handed due to injuries. "We played so well in the first half, and really felt like it was the style we loved seeing. Our guys were all over the football, the ball was coming out. Just ball hawking and taking care of the football on our side. Just a lot of really good stuff. ... To get the win, get it done, and keep moving forward and feeling really good about how hard we played, we accomplished something good today. I was happy about that."
It wasn't pretty, of course. Special teams struggled, the offense struggled at times. But their demeanor has really seemed to have changed from urgent pressing to something more dialed in
"We feel a connection," Earl Thomas said at his locker on Sunday. "That's the most important thing: the connection, the intensity and the attention to detail. We're all tied around on a string, and we've got to fly around to the ball and keep celebrating and just having fun. The purest form of the game."
(Seriously how can you not love Earl Thomas).
Pete Carroll echoed this.
"There's a fine line between that crazed mentality that you see and when you think you're going," Carroll said. "You're trying really hard, but there's a difference. The energy of it, the emotion of it, was so obvious. The guys have really captured it, and I'm hoping we can keep going. It will make all the difference for us."
He expounded on that on Monday when talking with Brock and Salk on 710 ESPN.
Said Carroll, "What's really exciting is that the defense is really playing. They're really going. It was a great effort (on Sunday). Brandon Mebane and Michael Bennett were flying off the line of scrimmage, and they were causing problems. Bruce Irvin is really coming around, really contributing. Not just in the big plays that you're seeing, but in a lot of the other plays as well. The group is really playing well. Tharold Simon played excellent football (on Sunday). That's really cool for us. To get that big guy out there, you know, he was all over them, as was Richard Sherman on the other side."
"So," he continued, "if you look at the last three weeks, we're only allowing about 250 (yards) a game, or so. That's big time. Also, check out the quarterback efficiency against us the last few weeks, that's the numbers that we're used to seeing, you know, in the past couple years. So, things are getting better.
(Cam Newton: 61.0, Derek Carr: 66.5)
Carroll went on, "The pass rush is heating up. Danny (Quinn) is getting after them, and they're responding to it. I think that's the biggest difference that's going to lead us into the beginning of the 2nd half. We looked a couple of weeks ago and said 'we've got ten weeks left, let's get this thing cranking, and let's see how far we can take it.' And, we made a big jump the last two weeks. We've played really good football. We're still rushing for 150 (yards) a game - that's good - and our numbers were way up again running the ball. All those things are characteristic."
"We're having some issues in special teams with the young guys, the mixing and matching of guys that are not quite as effective as we've been, but we can reel that back in as those guys get some experience, so I'm really excited about the 2nd half. Really excited about it."
"Mostly because we've recaptured the real essence of what we're all about, and that's playing so darn hard."
Carroll talked about how things have felt "different" this year for the Seahawks, and spouted optimism about how they are on the verge of doing some good things, when he joined Mitch Levy Wednesday morning.
"We haven't converted on the opportunities," he said. "We're leading the NFL in forcing fumbles; we're out ahead by a pretty substantial mark, but we haven't gotten the ball back. So, the ball's out, but that's a huge issue for us, because the attempts you make to strip the football create the opportunities to create turnovers, so we have a tremendous emphasis there and we're the best in the NFL at it. But, we haven't converted with picking up the ball. The ball's been on the ground a lot, but it's not coming our way yet. That's just the bounce of the football. The thing that's hardest to do is to get the ball on the ground, and that's happening."
"The interceptions," he continued, "I think we've seen the teams that have played us be extremely careful with the football. When we've had some chances, we haven't converted. We've had some balls that we've had the chance to catch, and we haven't made the play on it."
"And, those maybe three or four plays would make a big difference in the season, in terms of just the feeling of it."
"Look at what it felt like in the first half last week. That's what we're used to. That's what it feels like when the ball's coming our way. That's what happened last week, and even in that, we missed some opportunities. Richard knocked one out at the sideline, and it bounced out of bounds. Last week, Malcolm did the exact same thing. So, those opportunities are there, we know that they come in bunches. We're +4 right now, our offense is leading the NFL in the fewest turnovers, so we're doing a lot of good things.
"We're on the verge of exploding, I think. That's why we're so positive right now, we're so upbeat about our prospects for going down the stretch here."