By John Boyle Herald Columnist
RENTON — The art of recovery. It can define a football team’s success in so many different ways.
How does an important player recover from an injury? How good is a defensive player’s recovery speed if a receiver gets behind him? How well can a team recover when it falls behind early in a game?
And perhaps most importantly in the big picture, how does a team recover from a tough loss? Do players dwell and wonder what if? Or do they compartmentalize, move forward and find a way to bounce back from even the most gut-wrenching losses?
This week, the Seahawks hope they are a team that handles adversity well as they prepare for the Dallas Cowboys on the heels of a 20-16 season-opening loss in Arizona.
Last week, the script was seemingly being written for a perfect start to the season. After a sluggish first half, the Seahawks came back to take the lead late in the game on the road against an NFC West rival. Then, after falling behind again late in the fourth quarter, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has his team knocking on the door for the go-ahead score with seconds left on the clock. But the rally fell just short, and instead of a thrilling win, the Seahawks flew home knowing that a single catch, a single block, a single tackle or pass breakup, any one of those things could have changed the outcome of the game.
“I think when it’s right there and we’ve come back and we did everything to get back in the game and (have) the opportunity to do something cool on the road, and to see the young quarterback put it together and win a game,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “It was so cool to have that opportunity, and then to not get it was what was difficult.”
Now, Carroll has to see how his young team recovers. There are plenty of things the Seahawks need to do to beat the Cowboys this week — contain an explosive Cowboys offense, improve their pass protection against another dangerous blitzing team, lower the number of penalties. Yet having a short memory could be the biggest key to avoiding an 0-2 start.
“You can’t dwell on the past, you can’t dwell on the last play,” linebacker Leroy Hill said. “I’ve figured that out. I’ve done that and come back and had a bad game myself. … You have to move forward. You can’t let a single game get you twice or three times.”
And let’s not get carried away here. Seattle’s season isn’t over even if it starts with two straight losses, but with the tough early season schedule, the Seahawks know they can’t afford to dig too big of a hole if they really are going to contend in the NFC West.
And yes, bouncing back from a loss is nothing exclusive to this locker room. In fact, as very basic math tells us, as many teams this week are recovering from losses as are celebrating wins. But again, the way the Seahawks lost, that is what has the potential to linger. Losses like Sunday’s are the type that can haunt teams that end up falling just short of the playoffs. The Seahawks don’t plan on letting that happen, however.
“That only happens if you let it,” fullback Michael Robinson said. “We have to understand that this is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. The season is not won or lost off one play or one game.”
The good news for the Seahawks is that Carroll has been pretty good at getting his teams to bounce back quickly from defeat. In his two seasons here, he has a losing record overall, but is 9-8 coming off of a loss.
Amongst those nine wins are some of this team’s most memorable in that time, including the 2010 win in Chicago, the playoff clinching win over St. Louis, as well as wins last year in New York against the eventual Super Bowl champs, a home win over the AFC Championship-bound Ravens and a Thursday night drubbing of the Philadelphia Eagles. Not bad for a coach who didn’t have to deal with losing all that often at his last job.
“That you understand that what has just happened is already done, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Carroll said. “Win or lose. I would be talking the same way had we won the game. I would feel different, but I’d be talking the same.
“The idea is, if you understand that on a regular basis and you continue to point that out, that guys continue to develop a mentality about that, so that when this time comes now, bam we kick into competition Wednesday and away we go. It is that discipline that allows you to maintain consistent, elevating effort and performance over a long period of time, and you have to be really good at it. They have to have heard it for a long time. To just tell them today isn’t enough.”
Of course, as Carroll admits, this is a young team preparing for just its second game, so he isn’t entirely sure how players will respond. It’s one thing to preach a message and hope it’s sinking in. Seeing that message translate into a victory over a very good team is something entirely different.
“It’s interesting to see where we are on that,” Carroll said. “We’ll find out.”
No loss is a good loss, but some, like last weekend’s can be particularly painful. How quickly the Seahawks recover from that loss might be as important as anything they do schematically when it comes to the difference between a 1-1 start and a second straight loss.
“We move on because we have to,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “That’s just the nature of the business.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.