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Seahawks struggling through season's final half

| December 16, 2010 8:00 PM

RENTON, Wash. (AP) - Pete Carroll stresses almost constantly about the fourth quarter, whether in reference to an individual game or concerning the season as a whole.

Problem is, his Seattle Seahawks appear to be regressing as the most important stretch of the season arrives, having dropped five of their last seven as injuries have piled up and Seattle has struggled facing some quality teams.

And now they're being asked this week to try to break their skid against the Atlanta Falcons, who at 11-2 are the best team in the NFC.

"Particularly here at the end of the season where everybody's working hard, everybody is the recipient of the benefit of playing together for so long," Carroll said. "(If) you get your stuff right you should be playing better, better, better as you go along if you're doing things right, and it doesn't feel like that. It feels like we've gone back and forth."

Seattle thudded last week against San Francisco in a 40-21 loss to the 49ers when there was a chance to take control of the NFC West race. It was the capper to a five-week stretch where Seattle played just five strong quarters that resulted in a pair of victories over 4-9 Arizona and 1-12 Carolina.

All five of Seattle's losses during this stretch since reaching 4-2 after a Week 7 victory over Arizona have been by an average of 23 points. As Lawyer Milloy said after Sunday's loss in San Francisco, "When we lose, we lose in grand fashion and that's not good."

Seattle's downturn started in a 33-3 Week 8 loss against Oakland. Heading into that game, Seattle ranked second in the league at stopping the run, and while not great, ranked 24th in rushing.

Since that loss to the Raiders, both areas have headed downward. Seattle can't stop the run and outside of its two victories during this seven-game stretch, can't run the ball themselves.

The Seahawks have gone from second to 20th in the league in stopping the run, partly due to key injuries to defensive linemen Red Bryant and Colin Cole.

Offensively, despite Marshawn Lynch's arrival and acclimation into the offense, there's been no improvement. Seattle's now 31st in the league in rushing, ahead of only Indianapolis.

But at least the Colts make up for their inability to run the ball with the top pass offense in the league. Seattle's ranks 16th and just watched quarterback Matt Hasselbeck throw four interceptions for the fourth time in his career.

The regression is also showing up in turnovers and third-down conversions, two key stats that have helped tell the story of Seattle's season. The Seahawks had just 10 turnovers through the first six games and 17 in the last seven, while forcing only seven turnovers during that stretch.

On third downs, Seattle's offense is converting at just 32 percent in the past seven games, while its defense is giving up nearly 45 percent of third-down chances.

"Really we just got to do right all the time. We'll have plays where nine guys will do it right and two won't do it right. We need everybody on board all the time," Seattle receiver Mike Williams said. "You never know what play is going to be the play that makes the difference. guys have to focus, we've got to finish."

Finishing is what Carroll has preached even early in the season when Seattle was a surprising 4-2. Players note that in their victories, Carroll isn't really concerned about what happens early, just as long as they're playing well and winning late.

But that consistency has been absent and the reason Seattle's in the situation it faces with three weeks to go and unsettled playoff chances.

"We are not consistently playing the way a good team plays where you don't hurt yourself and you don't put yourself in bad situations and give away opportunities to your opponent," Carroll said. "We are still working at that."

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