RENTON — As did most of the rest of the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks went to work Sunday.
Instead of playing a game at Lumen Field or some other big stadium, the Seahawks were putting on their pads and heading out to practice on their indoor field at the VMAC.
For the Seahawks, it was a Sunday that was more practically a Wednesday, their heaviest practice day of a usual NFL game week as they prepared for Thursday’s game at Dallas.
It’s what coach Pete Carroll called “a very unusual situation” brought about by playing two straight games on a Thursday, something the Seahawks have never done.
Typically, after their annual Thursday game, the Seahawks don’t play until the following Sunday (or Monday) making the weekend that follows the game the team’s so-called “mini-bye.”
The NFL took the occasion of the Seahawks and the Cowboys hosting games on Thanksgiving Day to pair the two the following Thursday.
It’s something that has become a common occurrence for Dallas, which always hosts a game on Thanksgiving and often has played the following Thursday. This will be the seventh time since 2014 Dallas has played on the Thursday following Thanksgiving.
For the Seahawks, it’s new territory. And it means adjusting their usual workweek.
“The league is playing and we’re not and we’re sitting here trying to picture that this is a Wednesday preparation and it’s the middle of the weekend here,” Carroll said. “It’s the same for both sides and we’ll figure it out.”
At least they know they’ll get their mini-bye next weekend.
While it may seem a little confusing, the Seahawks have little choice but to do whatever it takes to get the season back on track after losses in three of their last four games, including a reality-check 31-13 home defeat to the 49ers on Thanksgiving night.
That loss kicked off a four-game stretch against three of the best teams in the NFC.
After the game against the 8-3 Cowboys, the Seahawks will have their return matchup at San Francisco against the 8-3 49ers and will host the 10-1 Eagles.
It’s a trio of games that will go a long way toward determining if the Seahawks will make the playoffs.
It’s a critical enough stretch that Carroll didn’t bother trying to downplay what lays ahead.
“This is an enormous opportunity for us,” he said. “They’re all huge. Next week and the next week. Now look at the schedule, I know what’s coming. Every one of those games are enormous opportunities for us to figure in, in our division and still battle for all of that, that’s there. The NFC games, huge. Because it’s a Thursday to Thursday, and what happened last Thursday, it’s a big opportunity right here. I don’t want to miss this.”
As should be expected, the Seahawks’ playoff hopes have become much more precarious with the two losses of the past week.
They ended Sunday still holding onto the seventh spot in the NFC, behind the four division leaders (Eagles, 49ers, Lions and Falcons), as well as Dallas and Minnesota.
Before the 17-16 loss to the Rams a week ago Sunday, the Seahawks seemed in good shape with much of the rest of the NFC languishing. While they were losing two games in five days, a few other NFC teams crawled back into playoff contention.
Green Bay, for instance, won twice in five days to move to within a game of the Seahawks at 5-6. The Rams also won again Sunday, beating Arizona 37-14 and are also 5-6 and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker on the Seahawks. Atlanta (the leader in the NFC South) and New Orleans are also 5-6.
The way the Vegas oddsmakers are almost certain to see it, the Seahawks will have to pull an upset to avoid this stretch turning into a five-game losing streak — which would be their longest since 2008, when the Seahawks lost six in a row in going 4-12 in Mike Holmgren’s final year as coach — that could leave them at 6-8 heading into their final three games.
Seattle is already listed as being as much as a 7.5-point underdog at Dallas. Seattle went off as a seven-point underdog Thursday against the 49ers, and given SF being at home for the rematch, the 49ers might even be double-digit favorites when Dec. 10 rolls around. And the Eagles are also likely to be a touchdown-or-so favorite when they come to Seattle Dec. 17.
The Seahawks have never lost more than three in a row under Carroll. They did it last season as part of a stretch of losing five of six that turned a 6-3 start into a 9-8 finish.
That proved good enough to make the playoffs in the newly expanded seven-team postseason format for each conference.
Nine wins could be enough for the playoffs yet again.
The road to nine wins means winning at least one of the next three, or winning each of the last three, two of which are on the road — at Tennessee on Dec. 24, home to the Steelers on Dec. 31 and at Arizona either Jan. 6 or Jan. 7.
It’s a stretch of games against teams who have a combined won-lost record of 39-28 and a winning percentage of 58.2%.
Carroll said he stressed the urgency of the moment — as well as getting back to playing the way they did when they won five of six before losing three of the last four — when he met with the team Sunday.
“We’re talking about everything,” Carroll said. “We’re talking about getting right and getting back on course and making sure that we’re tuned in, in the right ways. We get to have a normal routine this week, and we’re going to make it as typical as we can, so they feel comfortable about the rhythm of it. It wasn’t like that last week. These guys, particularly the young guys, it will really help them be on track.”