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O’Neil: In loss to Chargers, we learned why Seahawks have a ways to go

The Seahawks struggled to do much on the ground after Chris Carson's injury Sunday. (AP)

The Seahawks still have a ways to go.

Seattle learned that in Sunday’s loss to the Chargers when the Seahawks’ defense was shown to be something short of dominant and the offense showed its still capable of puzzling inconsistency, which leads our list of what we learned:

1. There’s Chris Carson and then everyone else in the RB room.

The Seahawks ran the ball on their first four plays from scrimmage, kick-starting a touchdown drive that made it seem as if Seattle was going to pick up right where it left off in its Week 8 win in Detroit. Seattle drove 75 yards for a touchdown on its opening drive, and Carson was responsible for 30 of those yards on five carries. He left the game with a hip injury after that possession, though, and Seattle’s offense was never the same.

Yes, the Seahawks gained yards on the ground in the final period, but that was largely due to three scrambles from Russell Wilson, and that shouldn’t be mistaken for the kind of physical running game that the Seahawks had demonstrated in their previous five games. And as tough as Mike Davis is, he and rookie Rashaad Penny weren’t nearly as effective as Carson was on that opening possession.

2. This team is dependent on turnovers.

That’s not necessarily a compliment. In fact, it could turn out be dangerous. The Seahawks have 16 takeaways this season, tied for fifth-most in the league. They had forced at least one turnover in 20 consecutive regular-season games, which was the longest active streak in the league. Yet turnovers can be fickle. They can evaporate, especially when facing good quarterbacks, which was exactly what happened on Sunday against the Chargers.

Seattle’s defense gave the team a chance to win that game because for as much yardage as Seattle surrendered on the ground – which was certainly significant – the Chargers’ offense didn’t manage a single point in the second half. But without a turnover, the Seahawks’ offense really couldn’t get going until it was deep in the fourth quarter. Seattle isn’t always going to be able to count on turnovers to get things going.

3. The Seahawks’ clock management can induce madness.

Seattle had all of its timeouts remaining entering the final minute of the first half as it drove into San Diego’s half of the field. This was a good thing, something that can’t be taken for granted given this team’s propensity for frittering away timeouts. What happened in that final minute, though, left a whole lot to be desired.

The Seahawks had the ball first-and-10 at the Chargers’ 43-yard line when Seattle used its first timeout with 43 seconds remaining. The Seahawks parlayed that into four plays without so much as getting the ball in the vicinity of the end zone before settling for a 44-yard field goal as time expired. It wasn’t quite a complete disaster. The Seahawks didn’t come away with nothing, and no one managed to light themselves on fire, but you have to work pretty hard to have all those timeouts on the opponent’s half of the field in the final minute without even sniffing a touchdown.

More Seahawks coverage after the loss to the Chargers:

• Pete Carroll reflects on Seahawks’ mistakes in loss to Chargers
Pete Carroll Post-Show: Disappointment clear after loss to Chargers
Takeaways: Chargers explosive while Seahawks’ offense stalls
Reaction: 710 ESPN Seattle hosts on Seahawks’ 25-17 loss to Chargers
Chargers release kicker Caleb Sturgis after disastrous day vs Seahawks
O’Neil: With Bruce Irvin released by Raiders, return to Seahawks possible