Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks falling back on precedent now that they are 0-2

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll argues a call Sunday during the team’s loss at Green Bay.
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll argues a call Sunday during the team’s loss at Green Bay. The Associated Press

Sure, they are “frustrated,” to use coach Pete Carroll’s word.

But panicked?

More like empowered.

There was an almost unanimous feeling inside the Seahawks’ locker room late Sunday night at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The players feel a comeback from this 0-2 start isn’t anything they haven’t faced — and overcome — before.

As recently as last season, in fact.

But history says Seattle’s climb is already Mount St. Helens, if not Mount Rainier, high. Since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, 204 teams have started 0-2. Just 23 (11.3 percent) of those have made the playoffs.

That does include four teams that ended up in the Super Bowl the season in which they lost their first two games: the 2007 Giants, the 2001 Patriots, the 1996 Patriots and the 1993 Cowboys.

So why shouldn’t the defending two-time NFC champions panic over being winless and two games in back of division-leading Arizona entering game three on Sunday, Seattle’s home opener against Chicago?

“Three reasons I’ll give you,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said quickly, as if he’d prepared for the question, following Seattle’s 27-17 loss to the Packers. “A: I’ve only beaten the Rams once in St. Louis in the five years that I’ve been here. (B:) Every time I’ve played Green Bay it’s always come down to the wire. Last year in the playoffs, we have to get the onside kick to win it. The (2012) Hail Mary — people call it the ‘Fail Mary’ — right? So those are two teams we always have trouble with.

“It’s nothing to panic about. (Plus) the mistakes we are making are easily correctable. It’s not like we need new personnel or something that needs to be revamped completely. It’s just, we’ve got to be on our assignments. We’ve got to be more accountable to each other, more responsible and take care of our assignments.

“And, thirdly, this team is the most resilient team I’ve ever been a part of. We’ve been through adversity before, and we’ve overcome it. And this is no different.

“I have no doubt we will overcome this adversity.”

This empowerment comes from every national outlet, ranging from Sports Illustrated to Popular Mechanics, declaring 11 months ago that the champs were chumps, finished after a 3-3 start to the 2014 season. The football nation piled on more after a November loss in Kansas City left Seattle 6-4 and three games behind Arizona in the division with six to play.

Those Seahawks were still three games out at Thanksgiving — yet rallied to win their last six regular-season games and nine of their final 10 to seize another NFC West title, home-field advantage in the conference playoffs and a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance.

These Seahawks believe that they are better off than last season.

Here’s why:

With or without holdout strong safety Kam Chancellor — heavy accent on without since there remains no end in sight to that impasse — this team obviously has more time than last season’s squad did to turn this around. It’s only September.

“I think we have the guys to get it done,” linebacker Bruce Irvin said. “Kam is a great player, don’t get me wrong. He’s a team leader.

“But … I do feel we’ve got the players to compete and win.”

And the schedule is now in Seattle’s favor to win, after not doing it any favors so far.

The Seahawks emphasize that one of the toughest two-week combinations the league could have given them to begin a season is behind them.

For instance, debuting center Drew Nowak has looked every bit like a converted, college defensive tackle and 2014 practice-squad guard in his first two games replacing two-time Pro Bowl selection Max Unger.

Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji mostly manhandled Nowak on Sunday night. One time in the first quarter, Raji threw Nowak into running back Marshawn Lynch, with Nowak essentially tackling his teammate in the backfield on an off-tackle run left.

The fact that Unger is now with New Orleans as the price for Seattle to acquire Jimmy Graham stings even more right now, with Graham having just one catch and two targets in Green Bay, and because a dozen other NFL tight ends have more catches than Graham’s seven through two games.

But Nowak has faced St. Louis defensive tackle Aaron Donald and the rugged Raji on consecutive weekends. That’s the NFL’s lineman version of taking multivariable advanced calculus and biochemistry in the first quarter of a freshman year.

“Yeah, it’s been pretty demanding,” coach Pete Carroll deadpanned Monday. “It’s been very hard.”

So the center of the Seahawks’ remade line can only improve.

Plus, the latest home opener in the franchise’s 40-year history begins on Sunday a stretch of three home games in four weeks, and Seattle will be favored in each one: versus winless Chicago, then Detroit (0-2) and Carolina (2-0).

Last season, Indianapolis started 0-2 yet reached the AFC championship game.

“You have to move forward and realize there is a lot of season left,” said Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, “a lot more games. I mean, there are 14 regular-season games left.

“There’s no fear in our locker room.”

No wonder. Seattle is a 14-point favorite over the Bears. Chicago has allowed the most points in the league (79) through two games. Backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen apparently will be making his second start in four seasons. That’s because Jay Cutler strained his hamstring on an interception return for a touchdown by Arizona in Chicago’s 48-23 loss last weekend.

Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford had a battered chest and body. He and the Lions will be at CenturyLink Field after Chicago, on Oct. 5.

By then the Seahawks expect to have corrected their issues of missed tackles, missed assignments and penalties. The fact they can control those flaws is more reason for them to believe they can correct their season.

“I definitely feel like if we eliminate the plays where we hurt ourselves we will be fine,” defensive captain Bobby Wagner said. “That’s something we are going to focus on.”

The Seahawks also now have that favorite motivator of the modern professional athlete, one that is harder to attain on championship teams: the perception he’s being doubted or slighted. Yes, that coveted chip on his shoulder.

Seattle’s came early this season.

“We’ve definitely gone through this a lot of the time since I’ve been here. It’s nothing new,” said Wagner, the team’s second-round draft choice in 2012. “I feel like the only people that believe in us are the people in this room. That’s how it’s always been. We’re fine with that.

“Oh-and-two is not a ton of panic. Fourteen more games. And I’m confident in this team that we are going to get it corrected.”

SEAHAWKS’ NEXT OPPONENT

CHICAGO BEARS (0-2)

1:25 p.m. Sunday, CenturyLink Field

Against the Seahawks: Chicago has lost 10 of the 14 regular-season meetings in a series that dates to the Seahawks’ expansion season of 1976. This is the first regular-season meeting in Seattle since Sept. 27, 2009, when the Bears won 29-25 and then-Seahawks coach Jim Mora figuratively threw his kicker, Olindo Mare, “under the bus” publicly for missing two field-goal attempts within 43 yards. Chicago has beaten Seattle in their only two playoff meetings, in the divisional rounds of the 2006 and 2010 seasons, both at Soldier Field.

What to know: Jimmy Clausen will apparently make his second start in four years Sunday because Bears QB Jay Cutler has a pulled hamstring. Clausen completed 14 of 23 short, quick passes for 121 yards with an interception, three sacks, a fumble and a low quarterback rating of 56.6 over the final three quarters of Chicago’s 48-23 home loss to Arizona last weekend. … Clausen, from Notre Dame, has started once in Seattle, on Dec. 5, 2010, when he was a rookie for Carolina. He threw an interception that current Seahawks linebackers coach Lofa Tatupu returned for a touchdown. That sparked Seattle’s 21-point rally in the third quarter of its 31-14 win. … Matt Forte rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown in Chicago’s 31-23 loss to Green Bay in its opener. He had 61 yards rushing last week against Arizona. … These aren’t the “Monsters of the Midway” anymore, as new coach John Fox may have suspected coming in. The Cardinals’ 48 points were the most Chicago ever allowed in a home game. The 79 points these Bears have surrendered are the most in the NFL through two games, though last week Arizona scored on an interception return against Chicago’s offense and a 108-yard kickoff return against its special teams.

Quotable: “There’s no answer for what’s going on right now. Players have to go out and play harder. It has to be an affront, a personal challenge to them to beat the player in front of them. Start right there.” — Former Bears Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Ditka to the Chicago Sun-Times on the team’s winless start.

gregg.bell@thenewstribune.com

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