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What was so encouraging about the Seahawks’ play in loss to 49ers?

Pete Carroll's Seahawks go into the playoffs having lost three of their last four games. (Getty)

The Seattle Seahawks aren’t going into the postseason on a win. As a matter of fact, you could say they’re backing their way into the playoffs as the 11-5 team won just one of their final four games of the regular season.

Moore: There’s a lot to like about Seahawks going on road to play Eagles

The Seahawks struggled down the stretch, and a rash of injuries was one of the biggest reasons why. Three running backs – 1,000-yard rusher Chris Carson and his top two backsup, Rashaad Penny and C.J. Prosise – all suffered season-ending injuries late in the season. Left tackle Duane Brown was sidelined due to minor knee surgery. Play-making safety Quandre Diggs missed the last two games with a high-ankle sprain. And when you add those to earlier season-ending injuries to tight end Will Dissly and center Justin Britt and the suspensions of wide receiver Josh Gordon and defensive tackle Al Woods, it’s clear the Seahawks were playing far below 100 percent.

So why did Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll sound so encouraged during his Monday morning interview on 710 ESPN Seattle, less than 24 hours after Seattle lost 26-21 to the 49ers in a game that cost them the chance to host a playoff contest the next weekend?

Jake Heaps, a former Seahawks quarterback and current co-host of Tom, Jake and Stacy, said it had everything to do with the way the Hawks turned things around in the second half against the top-seeded 49ers to come within an inch of beating their NFC West rivals.

“I think obviously there was some disappointment about how the game went, but I think Pete Carroll is encouraged by what they can do moving forward,” Heaps said. “Part of that reason is you saw this group make adjustments in the second half and come alive.”

After trailing San Francisco 13-0 at halftime and 19-7 through three quarters, the Seahawks outscored the Niners 14-7 in the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game and even reached San Francisco’s 1-yard line before turning the ball over on downs in the last minute. It was nearly a complete turnaround for a team that had looked like anything but a playoff team for over six straight quarters, going back to the previous week’s loss to Arizona, as 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil pointed out.

Heaps said “the offense nearly going 4 for 4 in terms of offensive possessions getting into the end zone” to end the game against San Francisco was a positive sign, but he didn’t stop there.

“The defense got timely stops – they weren’t perfect in the second half but they got timely stops to get them in a position to go win the game. Travis Homer, a rookie, steps up. Marshawn Lynch (was) successfully incorporated into the game.”

As for what it means going into this Sunday’s 1:40 p.m. first-round playoff game against the Eagles on the road, Heaps thinks the Seahawks are trending in the right direction.

“I think there was a lot of negativity and a lot of things you were curious about the Seahawks being able to respond to or overcome, injuries being one of those, and they stepped up to the plate and they were able to overcome a lot of that,” Heaps said.

Should Carroll take responsibility?

After Heaps finished his point about why Carroll was encouraged coming off the loss, co-host Tom Wassell addressed another topic stemming from the game.

The Seahawks took a costly delay of game penalty after reaching the 1 when a touchdown would have likely given them the win, and Carroll was quick to assume the blame for his team not getting set in time after Russell Wilson spiked the ball to stop the clock on first down.

“That’s me all the way,” Carroll said after the game Sunday. “There’s nobody else to turn to. We need to get that done.”

Seeing that people were disappointed that Carroll took the blame and moved on, Wassell explained how rare that is in the NFL.

“Believe me, at least he takes responsibility,” Wassell said. “There are a lot of coaches in this league who don’t. Somebody will ask them the question and they’ll try and intimidate that media member into not asking any follow-up questions and they’ll just blow right past it. I have no respect for that whatsoever. At least Pete took responsibility.”

You can hear the full segment in this podcast from Monday’s edition of Tom, Jake and Stacy beginning around the 12:45 mark.

More Seahawks coverage

• Heaps’ Chalk Talk: Hawks WRs show reason for confidence in playoffs
• Seahawks may get key player back but lose another for playoffs
• Groz’s Just A Minute: Seahawks-49ers deserves to be made into a trilogy
• Notebook: Hawks ready for ‘new season’ in playoffs after loss to 49ers