Was Seattle's loss to the San Francisco 49ers a good thing?
If the Seahawks had won, they would have wrapped up the NFC West and a first-round bye and would have needed just one more win to secure home field in the NFC playoffs.
But the New Orleans Saints beat Carolina on Sunday night and can finish 13-3 if they win out, while the 49ers can finish 12-4. That means the Hawks need to win two of their final three games -- or win one and get a loss from each of those teams -- to claim home field.
Coach Pete Carroll doesn't think that is a bad thing.
"Had we won yesterday, we would have had three games that would not have had a lot of consequence on what the end of the season was all about," he told 710 ESPN on Monday morning. "There have been times when that (has affected) a team. It's hard for them sometimes to do it."
Of course, Carroll said his team could have maintained focus even if the last two or three games meant nothing. "But there was the threat of that. That would have put you maybe four weeks away from the next (meaningful) game. … That's a long time to hold on to your mentality.
"Now? It ain't no different now," he said. "We stay right in the same mentality, in the same mode: 'We gotta have it.' And that may be the best thing. So maybe it's a little easier to see that you can keep the edge that you need."
The Seahawks head to New York this week for what they hope is the first of two trips there over the next two months -- remember, the Super Bowl is at the Giants' MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2. If they need any motivation for a strong finish, this week should supply it.
The Hawks then finish with home games against division rivals Arizona (8-5) and St. Louis (5-8).
If the Hawks had clinched Sunday, they would have had to decide how to approach the final three games -- Carroll said the idea of resting players is not "worth a darn"-- but the loss makes that decision moot.
"We want to play all the way throughout, make sure we hold on to the edge that it takes to win these football games," Carroll said. "In this regard, there'll be no doubt about that now. We've got to get right and play right and keep it going, and it might take us all the way to the final game of the season to get that done."
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**Linebacker K.J. Wright might have a second opinion on his broken foot, but he will have surgery as soon as possible. He is expected to miss at least 4-6 weeks. Malcolm Smith filled in once Wright left the game, and O'Brien Schofield and Mike Morgan offer good flexibility as well, Schofield as the backup strongside linebacker and Morgan as the weakside backup.
**Center Max Unger is having a rough season. He already has missed two games with a triceps injury and one with a concussion, and now he is dealing with a chest injury that forced him to leave early Sunday. He had missed just one game over the two previous seasons, but 2013 has been a tough year for him. Carroll said Unger's status will be determined late in the week.
"We know what it is; we've just got to see how it responds during the week," Carroll said. "It's something that one of our guys has had before, played with it. So we'll find out how it is particularly for him ... That will take us all the way through the week."
**The key offensive failure came in the fourth quarter after Golden Tate had returned a punt 38 yards to the San Francisco 27. The Hawks converted a third-and-7 with a pass from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse, setting up at the 15. But the running game failed twice in a row and Wilson's scrambling third-down pass to Kearse in the end zone was incomplete. The Hawks settled for a 31-yard field goal.
**Frank Gore's key 51-yard run should have been an 8- or 9-yard gain, Carroll said. Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner got sealed off outside, Malcom Smith was walled off inside and Gore cut back across Earl Thomas and outran him until falling down in bounds at the 18.
"All of our top guys had a shot at it," Carroll said. "Any one of the guys could have made the tackle, but we flew over the top of it in pursuit. And they hit it just right -- they blocked us well. It should have been an 8- or 9-yard play."
**Carroll took two timeouts consecutively after Gore's big gain, the first with 3:30 left on the clock and the second with 3:24 left after the Hawks forced a third-and-7. Colin Kaepernick ended up delivering the coup de grace with a well-blocked run for the first down at the 7-yard line. Carroll said the timeout use would have worked if they had stopped the 49ers on third down. "I'd rather put it on Russell (Wilson) to stop the clock, kill it when we have to and give him as much time with the ball in his hands."
**Carroll said they briefly considered letting the 49ers score a touchdown after they converted that third down. But he said, "It's not in our mentality to let anybody have anything."
**For the first time in more than a month, the Seahawks did not get to end the first half with a touchdown. For four straight games, they had scored a TD in the final two minutes. But this time the 49ers had the ball to finish the half, and they finished it with a touchdown to take a 16-14 lead.
**The Hawks struggled to run the ball again. They got off to a decent start as Marshawn Lynch ran for 50 yards on 13 carries in the first half. But he gained just 22 yards on seven more carries in the second half. The Hawks ran for just 86 yards on 23 attempts and are now averaging just 3.4 yards per carry in the three games since the starting tackles returned.
**Wilson did not play his best game. He started poorly, making some bad decisions. He fumbled for the first time since Week 7, had a delay penalty and missed a couple of throws. His 81.9 passer rating was his worst since the last time the Hawks lost, 34-28 at Indianapolis in Week 5. His 7.96 yards per attempt were his fewest since the Monday night game in St. Louis (7.72) in Week 8; he had been over 10 the past three games.
**If we didn't know any better, we'd say the Seahawks did this on purpose: Let an offensive player disappear for a few weeks and then suddenly make him the primary target. It was Luke Willson's turn Sunday as he led the Hawks with 70 receiving yards. He caught three passes, including a 49-yard TD.