Michael Robinson spent the first seven weeks of the NFL season at home waiting for the right job opportunity to come his way and making observations about what was happening in the league.
When the fullback rejoined the Seattle Seahawks this past week — the team Robinson spent the previous three seasons with — one of his first remarks had nothing to do with Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch or Richard Sherman.
"We've grown up, definitely, across the board. We've learned how to win on the road," Robinson said. "We've learned how to take that excitement, that juice that we have here and we've learned how to put that on the road now and win some nice games on the road. We've learned how to make the big plays in the clutch and how to finish games."
Once considered patsies when outside the noisy confines of their home field, the Seahawks (6-1) have morphed from pushovers to consistent winners away from home. They've started this season 3-1 away from Seattle, matching last year's road win total, and have a chance to improve on that mark Monday night in St. Louis (3-4) against the Rams.
The change in Seattle's results away from home is dramatic compared to just a few seasons ago. In Pete Carroll's first season in 2010, the Seahawks went 2-6 on the road and were never closer than 15 points in their losses. They lost by 30 in Oakland and 23 in Tampa Bay.
The road problems carried early into Carroll's second season before a turn began to be made with the team. Instead of getting routed on the road, Seattle started being competitive.
"We weren't playing very well, and when you don't play very well, you get your butt kicked. That's happened in the first year. There were some bad games, even to the first half of the second year, I guess," Carroll said. "It's really just getting your football in order. It's where you don't make the mistakes that get magnified on the road when a team gets crazy and wild and all of that.
"It takes time to get to the understandings that we're talking about, and it takes time to have the discipline."
In their last 16 road games, the Seahawks are 8-8 and none of the losses have been by more than 10 points. Seattle's five road losses last season were by a combined 24 points with a 13-6 loss at San Francisco the most decisive. The Seahawks look back on many of those losses with regret, having lost late leads at Arizona, at Detroit and at Miami, and had any of those been victories, Seattle would have won the NFC West a season ago.
Still, the lessons learned in losing those late leads have mostly taken hold this season. The Seahawks grinded their way to a 12-7 win at Carolina in the season opener, came from 17 points down to stun Houston in overtime and start the Texans on their slide, and last week dominated Arizona in a 34-22 win, in a stadium where Seattle had never won.
Their only misstep came in blowing a 12-0 lead losing in Indianapolis, but a win on Monday in St. Louis — where Seattle has lost two of three — would give the Seahawks their most road wins in any season since 2006.
"We have a mindset that we can win no matter where we are," Seattle safety Earl Thomas said.
When they get to St. Louis, the Seahawks won't be trying to slow down Sam Bradford, but his backup Kellen Clemens. Bradford is done for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee, leaving it to Clemens to try and salvage what was supposed to be a season of heightened expectations for the Rams. The 30-year-old Clemens, who has a career record of 4-8 as the starter, is more mobile than Bradford and more likely to improvise. That might be needed against a Seattle defensive front coming off seven sacks in Week 7 against Arizona.
St. Louis had won two straight before falling last week against Carolina. The Rams were already on their way to a fourth loss this season when Bradford went down in the fourth quarter, capping an ugly day in which Chris Long was ejected for throwing a punch and they committed five personal fouls.
Now they return home expected to play before a sparse crowd more concerned with what is happening a few blocks away at Busch Stadium with Game 5 of the World Series.
"What we need to be is more consistent," Clemens said. "So we have shown some definite flashes of what we're capable of. But I think that what we need to do is be more consistent throughout the course of a series, throughout the course of a game, and hopefully throughout the course of the remainder of the season."
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