Coming off one of their ugliest performances of the season, the Seattle Seahawks needed a little good news.
They may be getting it with the potential return of running back Marshawn Lynch.
Coach Pete Carroll indicated Monday that Lynch could rejoin the team later this week. It's the first sign of optimism that Lynch could be a factor for the Seahawks once the postseason arrives.
But Carroll cautioned that the team would have to see how Lynch is doing in person before deciding whether he will play in the regular-season finale this week at Arizona or in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs.
"We have to see him playing football and see if everything translates. He's always come back in really good shape, and been fast and strong and had his endurance and all that," Carroll said. "We're kind of hoping that's the same when the time comes."
Lynch has been out since undergoing abdominal surgery Nov. 25 to repair an injury related to a sports hernia. Lynch played through the injury in Seattle's Week 10 loss to Arizona, then sat out the following week against San Francisco before undergoing surgery with the hope of returning late in the season.
That plan seemed perfectly fine for Seattle with how rookie Thomas Rawls filled in. But that changed in Week 14 when Rawls broke an ankle and suffered ligament damage against Baltimore and was lost for the year. While Seattle got past Cleveland with a makeshift running game, the lack of a legitimate back became an obvious weakness in Sunday's 23-17 loss to St. Louis.
Carroll said Lynch's status for this week would first depend on how he managed the next couple of days of personal workouts with mixed martial arts trainers in the Bay Area that Lynch has worked with in the past, and then if he is able to immediately translate that rehabilitation work into football practice.
"We're pretty much relying on the reports they are giving us and the work that is being done," Carroll said. "Those guys know him really well and really for the last few years have done great work with him, and we're trusting that they are looking seriously at the preparation level and endurance and all of those things to give us an indication we can move forward."
Carroll's optimistic tone about Lynch came a day after Seattle's five-game winning streak was snapped, taking away control of the No 5 seed in the NFC playoffs. Even with a victory on Sunday in Arizona, the Seahawks could still fall to the sixth seed in the conference if Minnesota wins at Green Bay.
A loss to the Cardinals would land the Seahawks in the No. 6 spot no matter the outcome in the NFC North and ensure any postseason run by Seattle is entirely on the road.
"We're banking on that we have built up a pretty good process in how we do it," Carroll said. "We have the really good back to backs. We're going to have to go back to back, maybe to back, to do something really special."
But first the Seahawks must correct the problems that emerged in the loss to the Rams, and most of them can be attributed to struggles on the offensive line in the first half. Quarterback Russell Wilson was under constant pressure from the Rams' defensive front, and Seattle's run game was nonexistent. The Seahawks had just 14 yards rushing in the first half and 60 for the game, snapping a string of 25 straight games rushing for at least 100 yards as a team.
By the time Seattle made corrections it was facing a 16-0 deficit and having to rely on the pass to rally.
"That we were so unlike what we have been," Carroll said, "the consistency that we have come to really appreciate wasn't there."