Figuring out pass protection was perhaps the biggest virtue to emerge from the one-point win in Dallas. The season’s second half goal is simple: More offensive TDs. Only the 49ers have fewer.
At midseason, the Seahawks are 4-4 heading into a bye week. Guess how Pete Carroll is looking at the half-filled glass? If you said half-empty, turn in your 12 card and keep trying to play a sad song on a banjo.
“Four and four is nothing to shout about, but it puts us in a position for a second half where we can go for it,” Carroll said at his presser Monday prior to a week’s vacation, thanks to a bye. “We have all the match-ups we need to play in the division (two against Arizona, one each with St. Louis and San Francisco) to take it as far as we can.
“Winning back-to-back on the road (at Dallas and San Francisco) is enormous. We’ve won in a fashion that has shown we are different than we were earlier, on both sides of the ball. We’re playing the style we’re accustomed to. We feel very good about that. We’re healthy, with a few exceptions. We should come out (of the break) strong and be ready to go.”
True, beating the Cowboys and 49ers on the road are good things. As with any .500 team in any sports, however, the feats are accompanied by fleet of “yeah, but . . .” qualifiers.
Aside from the 49ers and Cowboys playing with diminished quarterbacks, the biggest “yeah, but” is a simple one: Lack of touchdowns.
The Seahawks have scored 12 offensive touchdowns in eight games (also four from defense and special teams). The only team more meager in the NFL is woebegone San Francisco with 10 offensive TDs. The Seahawks do have 18 field goals, tied for second, which has helped keep the offense from a complete implosion.
But it is the settling for field goals instead of TDs that is the team’s biggest vexation — at least, since the Seahawks have “solved” the sack problem. After leading the league (31), they gave up none Sunday in Dallas, fewest since the Super Bowl win over Denver.
It’s true that coming into the game the Cowboys were 28th in the league in sacks. But the Seahawks were on the road and facing madman DE Greg Hardy, who was playing in only his third game. So they committed to some maximum protection, simplified some playcalling and convinced QB Russell Wilson to release the ball a beat or two more quickly.
“The fact that we were able to allow no sacks was a big deal for us,” he said. “I thought it was fantastic that Alvin Bailey jumped in, started (at left tackle), and helped us without Russell Okung.
“We needed to improve. We found a mix we like. It was a good indication we’re going in the right direction. It takes a lot of moving parts to get that done — routes have to be run well and the ball has to be there. The focus now will be in the red zone, where we need to improve.”
The Seahawks had nine possessions Sunday, and had one touchdown drive and two for field goals, while a third field goal attempt was blocked, ending PK Steven Hauschka’s streak at 19 in a row. That isn’t productivity that would sustain what likely would be the top-end goal of a 7-1 finish to assure playoffs.
The ever-vulnerable offensive line remains a weak point, but Carroll has been pointing out that QB Russell Wilson’s judgment on passing is a critical part. Even though he missed some open targets Sunday, Wilson improved on his release, and was his old self on the 17-play drive that led to the game-winning field goal with a minute left.
“You could see Russell did a good job getting the ball out of his hands,” Carroll said. “A couple times the timing was a little bit off, went a little bit early.
“I think the combination with the variety (of protections) and moving him around that (OC Darrell Bevell and assistant Tom Cable) put together for the week’s game plan worked out well to help us. (The last drive) was just good execution; the focus and the discipline came through right there for us in a big way.”
Carroll’s optimism is based in no small amount of luck — few injuries. With the exception of WR Ricardo Lockette, who had successful surgery in Dallas Monday to repair neck ligaments and discs suffered in Sunday’s game, nearly everyone should be available for the Nov. 15 Sunday night home game with Arizona.
That game will have the return of two players absent all season — CB Jeremy Lane and WR Paul Richardson. Lane was injured (knee, arm) in the Super Bowl and Richardson tore his ACL in the playoff game against Carolina.
Richardson could replace Lockette on the 53-man roster, but Carroll Monday was reluctant to commit to that Monday, perhaps because the NFL’s trade deadline is Tuesday. Not having played, Richardson is not a trade possibility, but others may be as the Seahawks scan possibilities, so Carroll is committing to nothing.
The obvious need is in the O-line, but the chance to find an upgrade who could integrate at midseason is small. Asked whether the salary-cap-strapped Seahawks were active in seeking a deal, he smiled and said, “Semi.”
Semi is a good expression for a 4-4 team half-done with its schedule. The complete expression awaits.