RENTON, Wash. (AP) When Pete Carroll struggled as a head coach during his first stint in the NFL, and when Southern California was in its rebuilding phase during his early years in Los Angeles, there was a talent gap that explained some of the shortcomings.

That is why Carroll, above all others in the Seattle Seahawks hierarchy, is struggling to understand where his current team stands now. A team with starting talent the envy of many in the NFL could at 2-4 be arguably the biggest disappointment in the league through the first six weeks.

''I haven't really been in this kind of situation with a really good team where it felt so much different and the results are flipping,'' Carroll said.

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The Seahawks sit at a crossroads headed into Thursday's game at San Francisco, beginning a critical two-week stretch that will determine where this season goes. Seattle is already facing long odds to reach its goal of making the playoffs. Only 8 percent of teams since 1990 that have started 2-4 ended up playing in the postseason.

There's no panic in Seattle's locker room now. That could change by the end of the week if they lose at San Francisco on Thursday night.

''We can only get better. I don't think our season will keep going like this where we keep giving them games like this. It's not in our DNA,'' linebacker K.J. Wright said. ''We're going to turn it around.''

The reasons that Seattle is in this position are plentiful, from missed assignments to a few key injuries to a lack of depth at some positions and perhaps a few too many distractions.

From a purely football standpoint, Seattle's top issue is an offensive line that seemed an afterthought in the Seahawks' roster construction and has left Russell Wilson scrambling for safety and been unable to get Marshawn Lynch going.

The absence of center Max Unger, now in New Orleans, has loomed larger than the presence of tight end Jimmy Graham - the two key figures in an offseason swap between the Saints and Seahawks. Graham might have 29 catches, but Wilson is on pace for nearly 70 sacks.

There are the fourth-quarter meltdowns, especially the past two weeks in losses to Cincinnati and Carolina when the Seahawks' vaunted defense has been picked apart. Instead of coming through with clutch plays, the Seahawks have been left asking questions about why glaring mistakes are being made in the closing minutes.

''We're not perfect. Like I said, the last couple of years we could've been on different pages and been getting away with that,'' linebacker Bruce Irvin said. ''But this year, it's bitten us in the butt twice.''

Seattle's also lacking depth after a slow drain that followed its title in 2013. Players have capitalized on their success in Seattle and cashed in elsewhere. So have assistant coaches moving up the ranks by leaving for other teams.

And there is the question of fatigue, both physical and emotional. Is that drive still there for a team that's played more games than any other the past two seasons? Has seeing all its top stars receive that important second contract caused a letdown? Did reaching the pinnacle of the league once and having a second title snatched away in crushing fashion leave the Seahawks drained?

Perhaps that's what Earl Thomas meant this week, saying he believed there were distractions.

''We're going to outlast this,'' Thomas said. ''This is why we're in this position in the first place. This is why we're the best. These situations, they're not going to break us.''

These are all questions Carroll is trying to answer. And there's little time. Much of what Seattle can accomplish this season will be determined in the next two games, beginning with the 49ers and then Nov. 1 at Dallas prior to its bye week.

''Coach (John) Wooden told me one time, it's every year the players change. You don't change your philosophy, you don't change your approach because the players adapt as they go through their years and things fit together. You always stay with what you believe in,'' Carroll said. ''But in that times change, guys grow up, they mature, they get paid, they're heading into their contract year, there are a lot of things that factor into guys' makeup. And we have to be adaptable and fix and help and communicate and counsel all the way through that.''

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