BY Art Thiel 07:35PM 11/30/2015

Thiel: Carroll unworried about Hawks defense

Despite a record-setting effort Sunday from the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, the Seahawks coach believes it was a one-off that was not indicative of a failing defense.

LB K.J. Wright takes down Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger Sunday. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

The 6-5 Seahawks reside this week in the sixth and final NFC playoff spot, but it doesn’t feel as if they are in command at the bridge. It feels like they’re pulling themselves back aboard a dingy that nearly turtled in heavy seas.

A big wave named Ben Roethlisberger poured 456 passing yards over the Seahawks Sunday at home, most by an opponent in the franchise’s 40 years. The Seahawks still beat the Steelers, 39-30, but the locals figure to be damp and shivering, and in no mood to crow about their sailing prowess.

Coach Pete Carroll, however, saw a squall where others saw a hurricane.

“You guys forget how many yards (Broncos QB Peyton Manning) threw in the Super Bowl,” Carroll said at his presser Monday. Well, no, actually, it was 279 yards, nothing close to the torrent by Big Ben. And the Broncos were were down almost before “the home of the brave” concluded, and stayed there.

But Carroll kept to his course.

“We’ve had a lot of yards thrown on us at times by guys who are committed to throwing,” he said. “This doesn’t seem like such a crazy deal to me. Ben was great. His receivers were fantastic. We made some mistakes that gave them some chances that we think we’ll eliminate.

“I don’t think it feels that much different. There’s a lot of concern around — that was a big game we went through, monstrous output by Ben. But I really think that was that game. None of that factors in (to a changed Seahawks scene). It really doesn’t.”

OK, then. Seahawks fans should free free to dry their drawers and carry on.

He’s certainly safe in having that claim untested this week. The Seahawks play at Minnesota Sunday, where the Vikings are a surprising 8-3 and leading the NFC North. But they are much like the Seahawks in preferring to run the ball, in their case behind the relentless Adrian Peterson.

The Vikings are tops in the NFL in rushing (146 yards per game), just ahead of Seattle’s 144. But the Vikings are no threat to out-Ben Ben. Second-year QB Teddy Bridgewater has the passing game 31st in total yards, whereas the Seahawks are 21st.

In fact, until the regular season finale Jan. 3 at Arizona, the remaining Seahawks opponents — at Baltimore, home for Cleveland and St. Louis — all have offenses in varying degrees of decrepitude.

So it isn’t likely that the veracity of Carroll’s position will be tested until the rematch with the Cardinals’ QB Carson Palmer (363 yards passing in a 39-32 win at the Clink Nov. 15). Even then, the possibility of a playoff-meaningless game for division-leading Arizona may cause Palmer to be rested.

Four Seattle interceptions Sunday, plus a ridiculous play call by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin — a fake field goal pass play by the backup quarterback to a 300-pound tackle — salvaged the day. Nevertheless, Carroll sounded as if he was kidding himself about Seattle’s decline on defense.

FS Earl Thomas, who had one of his worst games as a Seahawk, was closer to an honest assessment.

“At times, we weren’t clicking,” he said. “We had some bonehead plays.

“I really go out there and just play free. You’re going to mess up anyway.”

No, not really. Being assignment-correct is a Carroll coaching staple. The Seahawks were beaten underneath quite a bit, which they expected, but were burned over the top early in the fourth quarter on a 69-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton when Thomas bit on a Roethlisberger rollout and abandoned coverage, then corrected too late.

The Seahawks have fallen to sixth in total defense at 325 yards a game and are tied for 15th in yards per passing attempt (7.2). In the fourth quarter against the Steelers, the defense gave up nine points, eight first downs and 185 yards.

That’s a Fernando Rodney-style close. Unlike the Mariners, however, the Seahawks Sunday had an offense to bail them out.

Thanks to an unpredictably manageable schedule, the Seahawks defense likely will not be tested again as they were Sunday — until the playoffs. To repeat: The playoffs.

Which is the time when no one remembers Thanksgiving-weekend storms.

Graham “absolutely” will return next season

Despite media speculation that TE Jimmy Graham’s season-ending patellar tendon rupture may be career-threatening, Carroll said he expects him back next season, although he had no fresh health news nor date for surgery.

“Absolutely,” Carroll said Graham’s ability to go next season. “There’s plenty of time for him to get back.”

The Seahawks filled Graham’s place on the 53-man roster Monday by promoting DT A.J. Francis from the practice squad. Francis was on the roster for the win over the 49ers but did not play, was released and then signed to the practice squad.

Luke Willson and Cooper Helfet will move up a notch at tight end, and Carroll hinted they may add another player this week.


Health updates: FB Will Tukuafu and DE Demarcus Dobbs are in the concussion protocol; CB Marcus Burley has a minor ankle sprain and Carroll was “surprised” that LB Bruce Irvin’s sore knee allowed him to play Sunday . . . WR Paul Richardson has “a great shot” to play after recovering from a sore hamstring  . . . DT Jordan Hill came out of the game Sunday with a sore toe and is uncertain . . . RB Marshawn Lynch remains in Philadelphia following hernia surgery and has had no setbacks, but there is no date for his return to Seattle . . . Carroll was pleased to learn interim coach Clay Helton was given the permanent job at USC, where Steve Sarkisian was fired in September. “I think it’s a great choice in so many ways,” he said. “I’m fired up for everybody down there. He’s done a really good job. He has a way about him with his players. Instead of the transition that would take place with a big changeover, I think they’re going to be able to really take advantage of this.”











  • jafabian

    I noticed that Earl had a very uncharacteristic game for him. Though Kam had some great moments there’s still times he seems caught out of position and Earl covers for him. I’m wondering just how familiar Kam is with Kris Richard’s schemes after his lengthy holdout and how much his teammates are covering for him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kam traded in the offseason.

    The defense has been really inconsistent this season. There’s times we see that shut down defense we’re familiar with and there’s times they seem no better than the Browns. QB’s are testing the LOB more. Is it because they have them figured out or is it because pressure isn’t being put on them like before? Though he played Bruce Irvin didn’t seem to be putting pressure on the QB as well as he usually does, probably due to the injury he had. The depth they enjoyed in 2011 and 2012 isn’t there. That’s the biggest problem. With winning comes weak draft positioning but that just means John Schneider has to really do his homework on drafting and free agent pick ups.

    • 1coolguy

      The CB opposite Sherman is the problem and the others are trying to cover for them. Shead, Lane, Williams, etc are simply not the caliber of CB that Browner and Maxwell were. They were very good #2 CB’s, while no one in this group is close.

      • SeaRaays

        Remember Lane was supposed to just play special teams. It was his first week back in 9 months. He was exhausted after the 1st quarter. Yet did a decent job. Lane has talent ..So does Shead just staying healthy is the problem. Maxwell does not look very good on the Eagles. Browser would be called for PI or holding more if he was on the Hawks. He is also not looking to hot on the Saints this year. The big problem I have seen is our safeties…Thomas just doesn’t have the knack for where the ball is going…and maybe his shoulder is keeping him from tackling.

        • art thiel

          Walter Thurmond would actually be a good fit for the othet CB spot. But they can’t keep everybody. Neither Kam nor Earl has been this season what they were,

          • John M

            I’ve always liked Shead, not sure I can give an analysis, but he has something. I’d like to see him develop more as a starter. He showed more speed than I though he had last Sunday. Right now I like the way he moves better than Maxwell . . .

        • 1coolguy

          Browner & Maxwell are not shut down CB’s. The Saints and Eagles made the mistake of thinking they were #1′s, when they are actually very good #2 CB’s. They are matched to the opponents’ #1 receivers and are not able to perform. Remember Browner was the 2nd across from Revis in New England, so they used him correctly.
          The CB’s we have as #2′s are not of Browner or Maxwell’s caliber, so for the first time in 3-4 years we have a genuine problem at that position and the others can’t make up the difference.

      • art thiel

        Williams can’t adjust to the way Seahawks want the CB spot played. He’s often been a liability.

      • Jeff Shope

        maxwell and browner playing awful for their current teams especially browner but no way was maxwell worth 10 mil

    • Matt712

      Carey Williams’ poor play had been creating a domino effect across the backfield. He needed to be removed. Lane was gassed, but should shore up that position better. Shead is more of a safety than a natural corner but in a single game he outplayed Williams entire season.

      I kind of agree with Carroll – the big yardage given up Sunday seemed anomalous and can be attributed to three main things: 1.) Ben had a lot of time to throw, especially in the first half. 2.) Earl had the worst game I’ve seen him play. (I heard several players were dealing with a flu bug, not just Russ; I wonder if Earl had it.)

      The third problem is more consistent and worrisome: NFL offenses have adjusted and are finding the soft spots in the Hawks’ zones. They start with short dink & dunk stuff underneath until the linebackers begin to press, then they hit a deep seam route (usually a tight-end) for bigger yardage. That’s the formula, and the Seahawks haven’t adjusted to it well. Chancellor gets caught in no-man’s land way too often. This is a scheme problem for Chris Richard.

      • art thiel

        You’re right about No. 3. They are scheming around Kam, and Earl hasn’t been consistently effective this season.

        • Matt712

          Earl hasn’t been as effective because he’s been shading to the weaker side all season. I expect that to change now that Williams has been benched. I can’t really explain his play on Sunday other than he looked physically compromised (ill? We’d never hear it from the player).

      • 1coolguy

        Don’t forget we lost some excellent defensive coaches, starting with the DC Quinn. Their leaving cannot be underestimated and I am certain Richard is not of the caliber of Bradley or Quinn, who each brought a lot to the position.

    • art thiel

      Most OCs have broken the code on the Seahawks defense. They know Seattle’s priority is nothing over the top, so offenses take the shorter stuff and seam routes by TEs.

      Depth always goes away under the salary cap after success. Failure to get great value from 1s and 2s in the drafts is hurting right now.

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  • 1coolguy

    ““You guys forget how many yards (Broncos QB Peyton Manning) threw in the Super Bowl,” Carroll said at his presser Monday. Well, no, actually, it was 279 yards, nothing close to the torrent by Big Ben.”

    Wow Pete – this stretch is a sports equivalent of “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan,”

    I appreciate Pete’s always on enthusiasm, but 279 is nowhere close to 456. Good job calling him out on this Art!

    • art thiel

      That’s part of the gig. Thanks for noticing,

  • Talkjoc

    My main concern with the Hawks “D” is a consistent pass rush. Avril is tied for 7th, Bennett tied for 17th in sacks but I’ve always felt that constant “pressure” is more important than a occasional sack. Makes the D Backs job easier. Also, what’s up with our LB’ers covering tight ends? I thought we had superior, fast guys who could cover. I appreciate you responding to questions. Am I failing the eye test?

    • art thiel

      The pressure has been good, but every team knows to get the ball out quickly. Ben threw at least one pass immediately upon receipt of the shotgun snap, and many others nearly as fast. Offenses adjust; they know the other CB is weak, and Kam and Earl aren’t what they were.

  • MacPhisto92

    So….is Pete not worried about the defense because he believes the offense will keep getting extremely fortunate and converting 3rd and longs? What’s the final score if they don’t convert just ONE of those 3rd downs for aTD?? 456 yards?? Yeah, you should be worried Pete, because this defense is only getting worse.

    • art thiel

      He’s not counting on more offense; he thinks the defense’s problems are fixable. But as I wrote, the schedule now turns in Seattle’s favor. No good QBs left until Palmer, who could sit out.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    Very astute observation about sitting starters in meaningless games. The odd thing to me is you have two team now 6-5. One thinks the season is just picking up and getting going, while the other believes the season just got bleaker and it is just about over. Yet they are both 6-5. Go figure.

  • Just Another Bullwhip

    “A big wave named Ben Roethlisberger poured 456 passing yards over the
    Seahawks Sunday at home, most by an opponent in the franchise’s 40

    Do you mean the most passing yards by an opponent in the franchise’s overall history, or the most passing yards by an opponent against the Seahawks on the Seahawks’ home field? I am going to assume the former.

  • ll9956

    This is a little off-topic, but the assessment of this game is beginning to fade. The good news is that the Hawks remained steady under trying circumstances. And that is very admirable.

    BUT: The Hawks had 8 penalties, totaling 76 yards, including yet another off-sides by Bennett and a stupid personal foul by Sweezy. They seem totally unable to control this. i’ve lost count, but I think this is at least Bennett’s fifth off-sides in the last three games. It seems to me that if he would just watch the center’s hands, he could avoid this. But what do I know?