BY Art Thiel 07:17PM 11/02/2015

Thiel: Upon bye, Carroll sees uptick for Seahawks

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.

Despite the 4-4 mark, Pete Carroll sees the Seahawks moving in right direction. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

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.


YourThoughts

  • Topcatone

    So lucky we have a great kicker. On kickoffs, how many have even been returned? Just a handful as I recall. I HOPE they have learned that trying to remake Wilson as a pocket passer to protect him is just not going to work with this year’s offensive line. He has to be unpredictable, as he was on the clutch drive at the end. And, the play calling HAS to be be better. More passing on first down, e..g. Even if just for 5 yards. Getting rid of the ball faster helped him, even though his timing on the plays was sometimes just a bit off. But, two weeks to practice should help.

    • art thiel

      There will always be passes from the pocket that a 5-11 QB can’t make. So they work around it

  • Warchild_70

    Prayers answered to hear the surgery was successful another wish for a speedy recovery to the Rocket. Game was so so Russell didn’t eat turf is a plus, #88 was on the ball, #25 was a wet blanket on Dez. There isn’t much else to say save that this is a win and nothing more. With a short vacation and time to heal we should come roaring out to take on our West rivals and show them who is there daddy. GO HAWKS!!!

    • art thiel

      Give Carroll two weeks to prepare, and his win rate is above 90 percent.

  • jafabian

    Great news about Ricardo. Praying for a full recovery for him. As far as the team goes his coverage skills on special teams will be missed. Paul Richardson won’t be an automatic to replace him because of that and Jeremy Lane is sorely needed on the LOB. The bye week is coming at a good time for the team.

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    • art thiel

      Richardson is not a special teams guy as Lockette was, maybe the best gunner in the NFL. That’s why he was fighting a double team when he was injured.

      • jafabian

        I’m not sure if this could mean that Moody and McCray’s roles will change on special teams? Both were special teams standouts for their respective teams before coming to the Seahawks. Paul could bring more speed to the WR corps if he’s fully healthy. Liked what I saw of him at the end of last season.

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  • 1coolguy

    Hopefully Ricardo has a full recovery!

    As to the hapless Hawks, will JS and Pete REALLY keep Bevell after the season? No rating site has him in their top 10 OC’s and each game the plays are so predictable and seem as though the play book has no more than 5 pages.

    Thank god for RW and his ability to scramble, where he effectively took over during the final drive.

    As to Graham, he really is just a tall WR, as he doesn’t block and is easily tackled by much smaller DB’s. Does he even know there is such thing as a stiff arm?

    Sherm: Man, if you’re going to hold, AT LEAST don’t stretch the guys jersey, repetitively, in front of the ref. Geeeez – at least be slick about it bro!
    On the last drive with Dallas out of timeouts, I was shocked when Beast Mode ran left and let himself run out of bounds, stopping the clock. As a Berkeley boy I would expect him to have gone down in bounds, burning another 30+ off the clock.

    As to the good parts, Sherm on Dez was awesome as was the D overall.

    Just wish we didn’t have to watch Bevell’s sophomoric play calling – Ugh.

    • art thiel

      Bevell understands that the ball is the No. 1 priority, so the offense is risk-averse. And no OC nor any playbook will look good behind that patchwork O-line.

  • Sonics79

    I might be in the complete minority (actually, I’m sure I am) but the play calling was much improved against Dallas. Zero sacks could be considered proof. They moved the ball most of the game, with the exception of some consecutive 3 & outs in the second quarter. Fortunately, Dallas mirrored them.
    They rolled Russ out more, brought back the read option, and hit their tight ends when they needed to, and used Lockett pretty well also. Remove a couple of missed passes from Russ and it’s a different picture.
    They DO need to score TDs in the red zone though. Glad to hear Pete talk about that.
    Even more glad to hear about Lockette. Loved the response from his teammates. Heard that Marshawn stayed behind in Dallas to be with him.

    • art thiel

      I’m with you on the playcalls. They moved the pocket, Wilson released more quickly and they avoided turnovers.