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Takeaways: Despite loss, Pete Carroll says Seahawks ‘building something special’

The Seahawks' Russell Wilson-led last-minute TD drive wasn't enough to push them to victory. (AP)

The Seahawks’ return to the postseason was short-lived as Seattle fell 24-22 to the Dallas Cowboys Saturday night.

Seahawks lose | O’Neil: Hawks die by the run | ReactionPhotos

With that, Seattle’s season is officially over. It would be a mistake to declare this a disappointment, though. After all, despite losing several All-Pro veterans in the 2017 offseason, the Seahawks’ 10-win season far exceeded outside expectations. But that doesn’t mean Saturday’s performance was without its flaws.

Here are a few quick takeaways.

Changes on offense too little, too late

Perhaps even more important than making a return to the playoffs was Seattle’s ability to establish its identity in 2018. Coincidentally, that came with a Week 3 win over the Cowboys, when – after a full offseason of talking about establishing a strong run game – head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer put their plan into action. Since then, Seattle saw its first 1,000 yard rusher in four years (Chris Carson), became the only team in the league to have three separate running backs rush for 100 yards in a single game, and led the league in rushing offense.

All of that is good and worth commending Carroll, Schottenheimer and offensive line coach Mike Solari. But where Seattle stumbled in their reunion against Dallas was in their hesitation to expand that identity.

It was an interesting decision, considering the Seahawks did so effectively just over a month ago. ESPN’s Brady Henderson drew attention to that comparison in a postgame tweet.

By Week 12, the Carolina Panthers were anticipating Seattle’s run-first offense and successfully executed a plan to stop them. That became the only game this year after Week 2 that saw the Seahawks rush for fewer than 80 yards. But it also featured a season-high 332 passing yards from quarterback Russell Wilson, and the Seahawks defeated the Panthers 30-27.

“Guys made the catches and the pass protection was there for us, so we found that like we’ve been talking about, we’d love to run the football,” Carroll said after that game. “But balance is what’s really the essence of this thing and I’m thrilled that we were able to do that.”

On Saturday, the Seahawks couldn’t find consistent success running the ball against the Cowboys’ fifth-ranked rushing defense. This time, Seattle – at least from an outsider’s perspective – didn’t adjust until it was too late.

‘We’re really building something special’

Of course, it’s easy to see the Seahawks could’ve passed more now – which is what Carroll said postgame.

“Yeah, we’d like to,” Carroll said when asked why the team didn’t try to attack downfield. “Really the protection was good on the (play-action) passes and (Wilson) threw some strikes and… yeah, easy to say that now.”

Despite a somber tone, Carroll seemed excited about the direction of his team.

“Our guys know they’re never out of anything,” Carroll said. “They just keep coming back and keep coming back and keep battling. And we’re really building something and it’s really special.”

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin echoed that sentiment.

“I think the best thing that we will do from this point on moving forward is that we will take these lessons, we will learn from them, we will grow and we will get better,” Baldwin said. “Not only as football players, but as men, which is vastly more important. And yes, it’s sad the way it ended, but this is not the end of the world. There are some phenomenal individuals in this locker room, phenomenal football players, and just like (Wilson) said, the future is bright.”

K.J. Wright’s best game of the season

Linebacker K.J. Wright was limited by a knee injury this year and ultimately played in just five games, including the postseason. He proved to be one of the biggest differences in the matchup between Dallas and Seattle this time around, though.

Wright finished the night with seven tackles, including a tackle for loss, one pass defensed and an end zone interception. His was the lone takeaway of the game and, at the time, the most pivotal. Dallas was then up just three points and preparing to take a two-score lead with just under 10 minutes remaining. Seattle’s offense struggled to take off after back-to-back penalties on the subsequent drive, however, and Dallas ultimately came back to score again.