RENTON, Wash. (AP) — For one half, the Seattle Seahawks looked like championship contenders. For the other half, they were desperately trying to hold on.
The Seahawks hope they don't look this way for the rest of the season.
The Seahawks improved to 6-2 with a 27-20 win Sunday over the hapless Atlanta Falcons, building a 24-0 halftime lead then watching most of it get whittled away in the second half before recovering an onside kick in the final moments to seal the victory. They have put themselves in position to be in the conversation with the best teams in the NFC at the halfway point and are definitely a contender for a playoff berth.
But the way they've gotten there has continued to raise questions about whether their record accurately reflect Seattle's ability, or whether it's a mirage created by taking advantage of a favorable schedule. Five of their six wins have come against teams currently below .500 and only one win has come by more than a touchdown.
"We're in solid shape of being aware of what we're capable of doing and how we can play in basic areas," coach Pete Carroll said Monday.
Seattle will answer the questions soon enough with a schedule that could be the toughest in the league over the final seven weeks after hosting Tampa Bay. Knowing what lies ahead could be the reason Carroll jokingly said he was disappointed to not be hearing more chatter about Tuesday's trade deadline.
Whether it's because of injuries that are starting to add up or a need for more quality, Carroll knows the Seahawks must be better for what lies ahead.
"I don't think it's going to entertain me as much as I would like. It seems kind of quiet," Carroll said.
While it's easy to heap praise on Russell Wilson, one of the big keys against the Falcons was the combo of Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. The running backs combined for 128 yards rushing in the first half, including 86 yards from Carson. It's the optimal kind of production and balance Seattle would like to see from the pair, but it has only occasionally shown up. While the second half was mostly forgettable for the Seahawks, what the pair managed to do in the first 30 minutes is a major positive moving forward.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Because of the score at halftime, it's hard to be critical of the Seahawks letting up. But no Seattle defense is ever going to be pleased with giving up 20 points and 346 yards in the second half. Seattle was willing to let Atlanta throw underneath, but the inability to get off the field — coupled with a pair of three-and-outs by Seattle's offense — made for a long final 30 minutes. The Falcons' 512 total yards in the game were the fourth-most allowed by the Seahawks in a regular season game during Carroll's tenure.
Rookie safety Marquise Blair may have earned a position as a starter for the rest of the season and not just because of injury needs. Blair played well for the second straight game, including forcing a key fumble by Devonta Freeman near the goal line early in the fourth quarter after Atlanta had pulled within 24-11. Blair also had a team-high 11 tackles.
Seattle's pass rush is still missing. The Seahawks finished with two sacks and seven quarterback hits, which is an improvement but not the kind of disruption needed to counter Atlanta's passing game. Jadeveon Clowney had a sack and four QB hits but the rest of the defensive line was mostly quiet.
Center Justin Britt is done for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Britt has started 86 of 87 career games since joining Seattle in 2014. He moved to center in 2016 and has been the anchor of Seattle's offensive line since.
Capable backup Joey Hunt is likely to take over but depth is a major concern. Ethan Pocic has been Seattle's emergency center in the past but he's on injured reserve and not eligible to return until December. The Seahawks will need to make a move for depth.
8 — Wilson had his eighth straight road game with at least one TD pass and zero interceptions, breaking a record held by Tom Brady (2010) and Nick Foles (2012-13) at seven straight. In those eight games, Wilson has 18 TD passes and Seattle is 6-2.
The Seahawks get arguably their final breather of the season hosting Tampa Bay on Sunday. After that, the Seahawks play six of their final seven games against teams with .500 records or better. That stretch includes two games against unbeaten San Francisco.
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