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If the Seahawks want to contend again, they must get off to better starts

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Seahawks fans should know by now what Pete Carroll loves to preach. I can hear him say it now...

“Can you win a game in the first quarter?… Can you win the game in the second quarter? … Can you win the game in the third quarter? … Can you win a game in the fourth quarter?”

The other way to say this is “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish!” Well that’s all fine and dandy, but when the 2018 season kicks around, I think we can all agree that the Seahawks need to stop making the fourth quarter so damn difficult.

In case you missed all of 2017, the Seahawks missed the playoffs. It says a hell of a lot that 9-7 is the worst season of the Russell Wilson era, but relative to preseason expectations, it’s still disappointing.

Seattle was an absolutely awful 1st half team last year. They ranked 30th in point scored, ahead of only the 0-16 Cleveland Browns and the 6-10 Miami Dolphins. Of the bottom 12 teams in 1st half scoring, only the Buffalo Bills (#22) made the postseason, and they practically qualified by accident. As a result of these poor starts, the Seahawks trailed at halftime in nine games, tied for seventh most in the NFL. The half-dozen teams who were down at halftime more than the Seahawks all had losing records.

Now to be fair, Seattle’s record was 3-6 when down at the break, which is an above-average win percentage. The problem? Trailing at halftime is actually bad.

Over the last six regular seasons, teams losing at halftime by any deficit have a record of 331-1093-5, a win percentage of .233. You might be thinking, “Well the Seahawks are rarely down by multiple scores at halftime!” That’s a valid point. If you want to narrow it down to a margin of no more than 8 points, the record improves to 261-507-5 (.341).

If you look at the entire Russell Wilson era, Seattle has trailed at halftime only 35 times, which is the fourth-fewest in the NFL, with the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers, and (by some distance) the New England Patriots topping that category.

Number of Seattle Seahawks games trailing at halftime

2012 - 4 (T-31st)
2013 - 5 (T-25th)
2014 - 8 (T-11th)
2015 - 4 (T-27th)
2016 - 5 (T-28th)
2017 - 9 (T-7th)

Believe it or not, from 2012-2014, Seattle was a preposterously great 10-7 in these games, tops in the league both in number of wins and win percentage. Since then? Just 4-13-1, which is an expected regression that’s closer to the middle-of-the-pack, and also indicative of the talent dropoff that has reduced Seattle’s margin for error in such situations.

Even the best teams are most likely going to lose when they stumble out of the gates. Mediocre-to-Bad teams start poorly more often than not. You can talk all you want about how close the Seahawks were to making the playoffs, but they played a ton of objectively bad football against a relatively favorable schedule, and it cost them dearly.

Moving forward, Carroll’s new mantra should be “Start strong, finish stronger.” They still are among the best 2nd half teams in the league, now they have to fix the 1st half woes... or rather, find a way to get it back to the levels we’re accustomed to.