BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 11/19/2013

Carroll: Seahawks ‘can get better,’ will need to

The Seahawks have benefited from a friendly schedule of sub-par QBs and an apparently injured Adrian Peterson. The trick is to keep getting better faster than the remaining foes.

Walter Thurmond takes an interception to the house in Sunday’;s win over the Vikings. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Now that the Seahawks (10-1) have put some daylight between themselves and the San Francisco 49ers (6-4), Pete Carroll can use the bye week to put his feet up, light a cigar, enjoy a snifter of Courvoisier and send rude text messages to 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

OK, that might be a stretch. He doesn’t smoke. But it also may seem a stretch to believe what he said on his Monday morning radio show ESPN 710.

“The really exciting thing, and I hope everyone values this,” he said, “is we can get better.”

Better? Most teams in the NFL would settle for being half as good as the Seahawks right now. Back-to-back seasons of double-digit wins as well as improving health suggest a team in control of its fates.

“We’ve accomplished a lot to get to this point, in some regards,” he said. Then he pooped the party: “In other regards, we haven’t done anything yet.”

Sad but true. Take 10-1 in November, and $5, and it buys you a half-caff, no-whip vanilla vente latte in January. That’s it. Seahawks fans need only consult the franchise’s own modest playoff history. In 2005, the Steelers were 7-5 in November, and went on to prevail over the Seahawks two months later The Game Whose Name Shall Not be Spoken.

More than any sport, weird stuff happens in the late NFL season. Before the Seahawks reach the three-quarters pole, it is possible to appreciate the fact that when Carroll says the Seahawks can get better, he has a track record of proving it. And it’s also possible to appreciate that the Seahawks do need to be better for all five remaining opponents, starting with the New Orleans Saints (8-2) at home and the 49ers in Candlestick Park.

Consider the defense, which had a sag starting with the Sept. 29 game in Houston against the Texans. But over the past four games, and particularly the past two, Carroll made good on his statement that the shortcomings were fixable via tactics, and not the result of a lack of talent or effort.

The last four games the Seahawks have given up 63 points, including a garbage-time touchdown in the 41-20 win over the Minneosta Vikings Sunday. That 15.8 average is about the same as the 2012 season in which they led the NFL in points allowed.

“It was a very, very good game on defense,” Carroll said Monday of the Vikings win. “Gosh, we played really, really well up front. That was real obvious that the last two weeks. We’ve played better than we had earlier.”

Before too much is made about the defensive uptick, only one of the last six opponents has had a winning record when the Seahawks played them (Tennessee, 3-2). And all had at quarterback either a second-stringer (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kellen Clemens, Mike Glennon)  or an under-performing regular (Carson Palmer, Matt Ryan, Christian Ponder).

It’s a remarkable run of wet gunpowder. Then came Sunday with the ground-pounding Vikings and all-world back Adrian Peterson. He had 65 yards rushing in 21 carries a year after he rang up 182 against the Seahawks. But hold on — Peterson said after the game he was injured.

He was held out of practice last week because of a groin injury, then complained that his knee hurt.

“Actually, it was bothering me a lot,” he said. “If I was able to explode like I normally do, I could have got some big chunks. In the second half, I tried to get it to loosen up for me.”

But he didn’t, and the Vikings collapsed. The Seahawks would appear to have been almost as lucky with timing as they have been good with results.

One of former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox’s favorite sayings was,”It’s not who you play, it’s when you play ‘em.” As almost always, Knox was right.

After Carolina (7-3) Monday night won its sixth in a row — a 24-20 win over New England eight days after beating the Niners 10-9 — it certainly seems the Seahawks were fortunate to catch the Panthers in the season opener, a 12-7 tooth pull in Charlotte.

Looking ahead beyond the Saints and 49ers, the New York Giants, who host the Seahawks Dec. 15, lost their first six games and now have won four in a row. Could be a bad time to catch up with Eli Manning.

So as good as 10-1 looks at the moment, the Seahawks have no control over the schedule or when other teams grow hot or cold. As Carroll indicated, they can only control getting better themselves.

In that regard, the defensive front, the object of considerable off-season investment and upgrade, seems to be getting the idea. Carroll Monday cited the improved play Sunday of interior linemen Red Bryant and Tony McDaniel in cutting off the run.

“We had great play (from) Tony McDaniel,” he said. “He was really in the backfield. Red played his best game he’s played for us. It was really clear how forceful he was on a number of plays. Those two guys combined really hit the line of scrimmage.

“That means both those guys got better. It’s just another indication that there’s room for improvement. The consistency of their intensity was great. It was really obvious, and it was exactly of what we had hoped for.”

The Seahawks have become better, and can get better. It’s imperative, because Carroll is right: They haven’t done anything.


YourThoughts

  • Marcus

    Good article! Actually from the game, the Panthers lost to the Patriots, even if the refs got it wrong. ;) That said, the Panthers don’t scare me for one reason. Get serious pressure on Cam Newton and he’ll start throwing picks. That’s the big difference between Carolina and the Hawks (that and we have many more offensive weapons). If our pass rush is there, I don’t care if you’re Brees, Newton, Brady, or Manning(s). It won’t matter, or at least is unlikely to matter enough.

    I agree that we’ve caught some teams at bad times, but we’ve also played through injuries too. Some of the QBs we’ve faced have played quite well regardless of their situation. Other teams we’ve played close have gone on to crush supposedly good teams (Rams-Colts). Ponder actually hasn’t been that bad this year. Heck, he was pretty good in this game until he remembered that he was Ponder in the second half. I agree that the upcoming teams will be serious tests and we need to play better, but I also wouldn’t characterize our last 4 games as “easy”. Brees will be an excellent test.

  • jafabian

    Not too worried about the Saints. Typically they’re average on the road like most dome teams. And no one has a better home field advantage than the Seahawks. Was concerned about playing in SF and still am but they clearly are not the team they were last season. Harbaugh became unsualy quiet right before the 49ers played the Seahawks, making me think he became aware of his team’s shortcomings at that point.
    The Seahawks are winning the game they should be winning and more importantly, they’re making plays when they need to. As Chuck Knox would say, football players make football plays. You look at that Tampa Bay game that they clearly had no business of winning and how they found a way to do it, that’s impressive. And based on interviews it seems like the players are being careful not to get too full of themselves. Haven’t heard much trash talk (except maybe for Richard Sherman but only in response to others and he simply tells it like it is) and no Super Bowl talk either.
    The last five games are winnable. If anything the last two might be the real test even though they’re at home because they’re against division rivals and anything can happen in those. You can bet the Cardinals and Rams would love to play the role of spoiler.

  • rjhd0188

    Actually Bees and the saints could be problematic with the controlled passing game they
    have. The only hope there is that we get signifigant pressure on him and that is a must.
    Jimmy Graham is a match up problem with browner out.

  • Effzee

    Speaking of The Game Whose Name Shall Not be Spoken, I just hope that Paul Allen has paid his dues by now, as a big-time owner who has contributed to the success of two different pro sports leagues, so that the NFL feels that it would be an OK time to reward him with a championship. Also hopefully on our side is having an NFL old-timer for a head coach, who also happened to put a plethora of great players into the NFL. In the end, as we know, it all boils down to who the NFL decides it wants to win that game, and we do still live in South Alaska from a marketing perspective.

    Most of these stretch-run games scare me. The Saints actually scare me the east right now because we will be coming off a bye super healthy, and we tend to play our best under the bright lights. The Giants are going to be hot and potentially looking for a wild card spot or even the division title if they keep winning and the Iggles stumble. The trio of late-season division games are all going to be brutal and close. We will be looking to secure home-field advantage, but we are not desperate like the Niners and Cards will be, and the Jeff Fishers always give PC a tough game. The team I want to face the least in the playoffs is definitely the Panthers. That team is going to be peaking at the right time, they have a comparable defense to ours, and they will be seeking revenge.

  • Matt712

    There’s some evidence that both the Rams and the Bucs were better than their records and were heating up when they played the Seahawks. The Bucs game in particular seemed like a real gut check, and a turning point. Since the second half of that game, the Hawks have outscored their opponents by an average 20+ points.

    Despite a few kinks, the defense had been carrying the team. Now, the offense appears to have finally caught up. So, it seems kind of ironic to be wondering about ‘when’ the Seahawks might be catching their opponents because, unfortunately for them, their opponents may well be catching Seattle heating up themselves.

    On another note, Art, you mentioned coach Knox without using the phrase “hoary bromides.” What gives? Where’s my “hoary bromides”? I want my “hoary bromides” !!

  • Gary S

    Hey Art, It’s hard to imagine Carroll with his feet up, smoking a cigar, and sipping Courvoisier. I can picture him kicked back on a bean bag chair, hookah in hand, and The Grateful Dead playing in the background though.

  • tedsfrozenhead

    Seahawks need to work on all the penalties they incur week in and week out. That’s not going to work in the playoffs