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What we’re trying to figure out: Did Seahawks’ defense play good Sunday?

The Seahawks allowed 11 explosive plays on defense in their loss to the Chargers. (AP)

The Seahawks have reached the midway point of a season that started with a two-week dip into the nether regions of the NFL standings, rebounded with four wins in the span of five games, and now has been cast into doubt following a loss to the Chargers.

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

These Seahawks are good enough to keep you interested. They’ve proven that for the first eight games. Whether they’re good enough to get to the playoffs will depend in part on the answers to these three things that we’re still trying to figure out about this team:

1. How did Seattle’s defense play on Sunday?

I’m at a total loss.

On the one hand, the Seahawks gave up an average of 7.3 yards per rush and allowed 11 explosive plays, which in Pete Carroll’s criteria are rushing plays of 12 or more yards and passing plays of 16 or more. Hard to call that a good game, especially when you consider that Seattle allowed 19 points in the first half, most of any game this season. But the Chargers’ Philip Rivers was only 13-for-26 passing for fewer than 300 yards and the Chargers’ only second-half points came courtesy of their defense.

I don’t want to undersell the defensive shortcomings of Sunday’s game, but I don’t want to exaggerate the flaws, either. While there were some troubling signs when it comes to allowing big plays, especially in the run game, the Seahawks’ defense gave the team a chance to win.

2. Is Chris Carson durable?

This has nothing to do with last year’s season-ending injury for the Seahawks running back. He suffered a broken ankle, and unless there’s some bone density treatments of which I am unaware, there’s not much a player could possibly due to avoid something like that. But he missed a game in Arizona earlier this season, was questionable entering Sunday’s game because of a hip injury, and while he wound up playing, he couldn’t finish the game. Carroll indicated that this injury is different than what bothered him back in October, but given that Carson never carried more than 150 times in either college season at Oklahoma State, it’s fair to wonder whether he can sustain the workload of a starting running back given his punishing, unrelentingly physical run style.

3. Does Russell Wilson’s confidence depend upon the running game?

The Seahawks struggled to run the ball after the first quarter against the Chargers. That’s going to happen from time to time in the NFL. And when it does, it figures that Seattle would be able to lean toward an aerial alternative. After all, it’s not like Russell Wilson isn’t a very desirable alternative. But so far this season, when Seattle’s ground game grinds to a halt, Wilson stops being as decisive and starts taking more sacks.

It could be that’s because Seattle’s offensive line is getting manhandled. After all, if the Seahawks aren’t opening holes in the ground game it stands to reason they might be giving up overwhelming pass pressure as well. But it’s also possible that Wilson’s passing performance is somehow affected by the run-game difficulties. Eight games through this season it sure seems that Seattle’s struggles to run the ball have a trickle-down effect in the passing game.

Halfway through season, Hawks have identity – they just need wins