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Seahawks' season saver: The team meeting that repaired Seattle

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The following item is excerpted from the latest edition of Albert Breer's exclusive Inside the NFL Notebook:

Sometimes, the idea of a seminal, season-turning meeting is a little too hokey for an NFL team to wrap its arms around.

Other times, it's not.

In Seattle, it took a collapse for this particular summit to come into being: The defense had just blown a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead in Cincinnati, and the team was 2-3, with unbeaten Carolina looming.

"After (Cincinnati), we had a meeting as a defense, really started holding guys accountable," said fourth-year linebacker Bruce Irvin. "That's the biggest thing: We're just trying to hold each other accountable. That's the biggest difference."

Sounds small. Played out big.

The Seahawks lost a white-knuckler to the Panthers in the next week, and the change in defensive ethos took hold after that. The Seahawks have allowed a league-best 291.3 yards per game over their last 10 contests, and are second in scoring defense (15.2) in that span. The yardage number is nearly 44 yards under the defense's average yield in its first six games, and Seattle is also allowing more than five points fewer per game.

"There's a million things I could tell you, but the easiest way to get it across: All teams in sports have to figure it out," coach Pete Carroll told me after Friday's practice. "Sometimes, they come out and they get hot early, and they can't hold it. We know it's most important to finish. We've learned how to keep working until it feels right -- get it right and then it is right."

So what did Seattle need to get right on defense to get back to its generationally good recent past?

More than anything, it was about finding a way to play for each other and through one another. Whether it was a Super Bowl hangover, or foundational pieces like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman coming back off surgery, or just the fact that so many guys had been rewarded with big contracts and plenty of plaudits, the early parts of the season showed a bunch of talented guys just kind of doing their own thing.

Confronting the problem was the first step.

"It took us a little longer to find our identity this year, to really play together as a team," Irvin said. "When we played Carolina the first time, I don't think this was the same defense as it is right now. There's a lot of stuff we hadn't gone through on or off the field yet, as far as relationships and guys with personal goals. We had to put all that stuff aside and get back to playing for one another. That was the biggest thing."

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Thomas added, "I think we realized we weren't far off. We were blowing [the Panthers] out -- we just let them come back. I think we had to realize it just wasn't flowing right. And it takes that chemistry, with health, spreading love, communicating. I think every loss we took helped us get to this point."

And at this point, Seattle seems to be rounding back into its own title-winning form. The numbers would tell you that, for sure: The Seahawks are 9-2 since that Carolina loss, and have held four of their last six opponents to single digits.

This Sunday gives those guys the chance to show just how close they are to arriving as a team, against a hungry group looking to end the Seahawks' two-year reign as NFC champs and score a season sweep of the home-and-home.

Maybe the 'Hawks get to the Super Bowl for the third straight year. Maybe they don't. But this much is certain: They're much better equipped to do it than they were a few months ago.

"It took us a while after that, for things to come together, after Carolina, I think, before we really got going," Carroll said. "But that's always what you're trying to find, that connection that's so important for a team. We've been there, we know when it's not right. It's just getting guys connecting. All of that stuff has something to do with it. It takes time."

Good thing the players there used theirs wisely.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

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