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Published: Tuesday, December 27, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Seahawks closing the gap

Seattle head coach Pete Carroll says Seahawks are more competitive this season.

  • The Seahawks' Pete Carroll thinks his team can take a big step forward next season.

    Associated Press

    The Seahawks' Pete Carroll thinks his team can take a big step forward next season.

RENTON -- There are two things that stood out about the Seattle Seahawks' inability to come back late in Saturday's loss to the San Francisco 49ers -- one bad and one good.
Seattle's close-but-no-cigar finish was a painful reminder for Seahawks fans that this team hasn't been able to win close games this year, at least not when they're behind in the final minutes. On the flip side, however, that the inability to finish tight games is an issue for Seattle this year represents a significant step forward for a team that over the past couple of seasons mastered the art of losing in spectacular fashion.
Seattle had a chance to come back and win games in San Francisco and at Cleveland, and at home against Cincinnati, Atlanta, Washington and last weekend against the 49ers. That's a big change from the past two seasons when the Seahawks had a tendency to take early deficits and turn them into blowout losses.
Despite winning the division last year, the Seahawks lost by at least 16 points in all nine of their regular season defeats. In 2009, the Seahawks lost six games by 17 or more points and four by 24 or more. This year the Seahawks have been beaten by double digits four times, but their other four losses were by a combined 13 points. Overall this season, the Seahawks have outscored opponents by nine points. Last year they were outscored by 97 points, so barring a 106-point loss in Arizona, which seems pretty darn unlikely, Seattle will improve on that front, win or lose.
"I think our whole team is more competitive now," said Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. "I don't know if you look at scores and stuff like that, but our season has been much different than last season was. We battled in a different fashion and I think we're growing. I think hopefully we'll be able to take a big step next year."
All optimism aside, however, close doesn't get teams into the playoffs, and one of the biggest reasons the Seahawks aren't still fighting for a postseason berth is that Tarvaris Jackson and the offense haven't been able to put together scoring drives when they needed them.
"We've got to be able to respond somehow," Jackson said Saturday. "Somebody's got to be able to make a play. Unfortunately we weren't able to do that today, but other weeks also. We've got to get better at that. We're pretty good at four-minute game, being able to run the clock out (when leading) and being able to pass the ball and run it to close the game out at the end of the game, but we haven't been able to come from behind the whole season and win it."
Some might wonder if a team built to win the way the Seahawks do -- by running the ball and playing defense -- isn't as well equipped to come back late in a game as a more pass-happy team would be, but Carroll doesn't think his team's style of offense is an issue.
"I don't think so," he said. "I don't think that. It's a whole different mode that you're in that everybody clicks into in two-minute situations, but I don't think it's a problem."
No changes this week
For the first time under Carroll, the Seahawks will play a game with zero playoff implications on Sunday, but just because Seattle was eliminated for postseason contention with Saturday's loss, don't expect the Seahawks to prepare for this weekend's game in Arizona any differently.
"No, we're going after this the way we've been going," Carroll said. "... We don't plan on changing anything. We want to see if we can finish this thing off right and get a win there."
In other words, don't expect Carroll to use this game as an audition for little used backups such as No. 3 quarterback Josh Portis.
"We're not shifting gears, changing and we're not going to try to learn a whole bunch in one game off new things," he said. "We're going to try to finish the year off the way we've set our pace here now. So I wouldn't look for big wholesale changes and all that. We're not doing that."
Injury update
Carroll said receiver Ben Obomanu tweaked his knee but that, "We won't know until Wednesday or Thursday what's going on with him." Running back Marshawn Lynch also has a sore ankle but should be OK.
Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog
Story tags » Seahawks

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