Things aren’t nearly dire enough for Pete Carroll to pull out his best tactics yet.
But the Seahawks’ disappointing fourth-quarter swoon at Cincinnati on Sunday got me wondering if the point will arise when the coach will have to do that mind-control thing like he did last year.
You remember the one, where he gets inside the guys’ heads and tinkers around with the delicate balance of ego, competitiveness and motivation, and they all come away with a revived sense of common purpose.
The defending Super Bowl champions had dropped a game at Kansas City to slip to 6-4 and three games behind Arizona in the division standings last November.
Carroll called in some leaders, and sent them back to the team to carry a message of unity, and a reminder of what they had been and what they still could be if they remembered what had taken them to the top.
Carroll somehow found the exact words to reach them, and it got them right. A team that was splintering suddenly pulled together and got headed in the direction of another Super Bowl.
I thought it was Carroll’s best coaching feat since he had been in Seattle.
Is it time for another heart to heart? An airing of grievances? A renewal of vows? A 53-man blood-brother ritual?
Without question, their firmly institutionalized sense of mounting strong finishes has been shaken if not fully erased — the fourth-quarter collapse at Cincinnati on Sunday was the most recent and most convincing evidence.
All three losses this season have been blown leads. The offense not getting the key first downs; the defense not making the crucial stops.
The 27-24 overtime loss, in which the Bengals scored 20 straight points to finish the game, leaves the Seahawks two games behind Arizona in the division, with undefeated Carolina coming to CenturyLink Field on Sunday.
Everybody in that Seahawks locker room knew they should have beaten the Bengals because, really, they finally started looking like they had in big games the past few seasons.
Most reminiscent of the dominant days was the fact that they were running the ball all over a good defense. Rookie Thomas Rawls was looking like the kind of Heir of the Beast they failed to find when drafting Robert Turbin and Christine Michaels.
And in this game, he benefited from good blocking. Seriously. That’s a notable development. The maligned offensive line had its best game, enough that it even presaged potential for improvement as the season advances.
On the other side of the ball, the defense created turnovers and kept the talented Bengals out of the end zone except for the first drive of the game. For three quarters, it was brilliant.
And then it fell apart, suddenly and completely, in the manner of something mechanical that had broken.
Does that make this time for the talk? Surely, that’s best saved for the threshold of the abyss, and this doesn’t seem to be that grim. Although Carolina is 4-0, the Hawks are still favored by nearly a touchdown at home.
If they go to 3-3, it’s familiar territory. They have proven what they can do from there. But if they fall to 2-4, what then?
Can Carroll go back to that motivational well? Will the players be tempted to dismiss it as old news?
Here’s another question: Who’s going to take the message and give it to the team?
Last year, safety Kam Chancellor played a key role. He had such unquestioned authority, and the universal admiration in the locker room.
Would his 54-day holdout, in which he missed the first two losses of the season, make Chancellor a less than convincing messenger in the cause of unity and selflessness?
Bobby Wagner is the captain of the defense now. But is he a vocal leader? Does it have to be somebody on the defense because that has been the heart of this team during its recent run of success?
These questions are symbolic of the evolving nature of any team, but especially one like the Seahawks, of whom so much is expected.
As it stands, everything is still open and attainable for the 2-3 Seahawks.
But it’s not too early for Carroll to start planning what kind of inspiration he’ll need to come up with if things slide from here.