BY Art Thiel 08:17PM 11/15/2017

Thiel: Fine time for Falcons, Sark to play Hawks

Lucky Falcons: If ever there were a good time to play the Carroll/Wilson-era Seahawks (6-3), it is now. The injuries pile up, and the guys on the couch dwindle.

Julio Jones (11) won’t have Richard Sherman (25) lurking Monday. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Asked what he expected to see from opponents in the injury absence of CB Richard Sherman, beleaguered Pete Carroll politely sidestepped the question Tuesday, although he certainly could have justified a few elbow smashes and an airplane spin or two upon his interrogators.

“We will have to wait and see,” the Seahawks coach said with a tight-lipped smile.  “Let’s not go ahead and give them any ideas. If you don’t mind.”

I suppose he could have said, “Well, without either Sherman or Kam Chancellor, and with Earl Thomas having missed two games, and maybe no Jarran Reed, I expect a blizzard of go routes, numerous seam routes from the tight ends and a bunch of play-action misdirection to take advantage of our absence of experience at various positions, which will give Julio Jones at least 100 yards in receptions, Matt Ryan 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing for Tevin Coleman.

“Just a guess.”

Since he didn’t say that, it is left to the rest of us to speculate for him. You’re welcome, Pete.

Then again, no one, including Carroll, knows which Seahawks defenders will show up Monday night against the defending NFC champion Falcons.

Carroll does know that Atlanta offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, his former protege at USC and the ex-Huskies coach, is capable of unleashing the football equivalent of a Cirque du Soleil aerial act upon his former boss and his former town in front of a national TV audience.

More or less, that’s what the Falcons delivered in January, a 36-20 playoff whipping in Atlanta that ended the Seahawks season and could have been worse had not coach Dan Quinn, the ex-Seahawks assistant, eased off.

The deed was done without Sarkisian, in his first year with the Falcons. But he’s under much fire already for the Falcons’ tepid 5-4 start. So for Monday night, the man does not lack for incentives.

Nor do the Falcons, who appeared to correct themselves Sunday with a 27-7 beatdown of the depleted Cowboys. Desperate to avoid falling further behind the revived Saints (7-2) in the NFC South, Atlanta encounters an even more depleted Seahawks team, who inexplicably is favored by the Las Vegas bookmeisters by three points.

The bookies seem to have forgotten an axiom provided by former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox.

“It’s not always who you play,” he said. “It’s when you play ’em.”

If ever there were a good time to play the Carroll-era Seahawks (6-3), it is now.

Besides Sherman on the defense, Reed (hamstring) and Chancellor (neck stinger) are hurting. On offense, the Seahawks lost RB C.J. Prosise (ankles) for what amounts to the season. Perhaps most significantly, LT Duane Brown (ankle), who is so much better than the next best Seahawks O-lineman than even a Seahawks running back could run through the gap, might miss the game.

The upshot is that with a wounded defense and an ineffective run game, the Seahawks appear to need a grand slam, a hat trick of goals, a buzzer-beating jumper as well as the best game of his football life from QB Russell Wilson. Even at his $21 million salary, that might be a reach.

After the high casualty rate of the 22-16 win over Arizona, Carroll sought to soothe the psychic wounds with positive, brave words.

“I made the point (to players) that we survived the game and we had a good break, which is what the Thursday opportunity does,” he said.  “There is an upside — these guys had four days off. So they had a bye, in essence, to try and get recovered, and back for the finish of the most challenging season.

“We are surely not belly-aching about it, or griping about it, or any of that kind of stuff.”

Indeed, whining should be reserved for when it does the most good — penalties. Oh, wait . . .

Truth is, outside help available at this point in the season is barely even modest. CB Byron Maxwell was brought back, but only after the Dolphins were willing to eat the balance of his $8.5 million contract two weeks ago to be rid of him.

Nor did things work out for Maxwell in Philadelphia, where he was hired by Chip Kelly after the 2014 season for $63 million. Maxwell’s chief claim to fame in Philly was that he was part of a trade that allowed the Eagles to move up to draft QB Carson Wentz, who is remaking his team the way Russell Wilson did in 2012 with the Seahawks.

On offense, the Seahawks promoted from the practice squad RB Mike Davis, who offered some promise in the preseason. In his first two seasons with the 49ers after being taken in the fourth round from South Carolina, he traveled 108 yards in 54 carries.

He should fit in.

“It’s an amazing opportunity, especially coming from not playing,” Davis said Tuesday. “I gotta make the most of it.”

So said Maxwell.

“You’ve always got to prove yourself in this league, no matter what,” he said. “You know, Dwight Freeney (another mid-season hire off the couch by the Seahawks), he’s out here trying to prove himself that he can still do it. So no matter who you are, you’re still trying to prove you can do it.”

Injuries have made Seahawks home this season to the try-hards. What they need are do-betters, a steep task in a week.


  • ss

    Art, you’re killin’ me, man. To say about Mike Smith that after 2 years and 108 yards on 54 carries, “He should fit in” with the Seahawks… My sides are hurting. ROTFLMAO!

    • Tman

      Art’s on his game.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for noticing.

  • John M

    Like Brando’s brother said in Waterfront, “It ain’t your night, kid.” If they don’t get steamrolled it will seem like a victory . . .

    • art thiel

      Keep the expectations low, and think how much fun it will be if they win.

  • Topcatone

    The OL and Rawls really have to step up for this game. Prosise, I don’t know. I kinda feel like Hawks should give up on him. Seems to be one of those guys who is constantly injured.

    • art thiel

      He’s shown enough to be worth keeping into training camp. Won’t cost them much.

  • coug73

    Winners bring reality up to their vision. Losers bring their vision to reality. Chuck Knox

    • art thiel

      You sure that’s Knox? That might be Dr. Phil.

      • coug73

        Yes. Dr. Phil has lost his way.

  • tor5

    Whoa, that’s quite the buzzkill, Art. I wouldn’t doubt your assessment of the loss of talent, but the Hawks still have one of the better spirits in the league. That might not factor into a purely rational analysis, but they’re a dangerous underdog. A role they played pretty well in the past.

    • art thiel

      C’mon, tor. You know I’m not in charge of your emotions, certainly not for free.

      • tor5

        Of course, I count on you to bring the hard truth, Art, along with your classic double-take metaphors.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art – I sense your frustration too?

    Apparently “do-betters” is even hard to accomplish through the offseason, draft, training camp and half the season. Not a lot has changed with the teams’ deficiencies since then – cornerback improved, but it’s now a bit of a wash with Sherman out. Now attrition from injuries is starting to take it’s toll and there is little margin to handle it. Hard to take the explanations when obvious existing issues are dubiously addressed.

    Take the running game, for instance – very few running backs are going to have success behind this O-line. Carson was an anomaly with the right combination of direction, speed, power and fearless attitude, so did alright in the short time before he was hurt. You can line up a dozen of the best backs in the league and maybe a third of them would have some success – but it would be just above mediocre. This line has the build to make average defenses look good and take years off of a talented young QB.

    I’m still rooting for the Hawks to make the Falcons look silly in some fashion – Especially Sark. I’ll bet that Carroll is well aware of his weaknesses and has a plan.

    Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      I get frustrated when writers and broadcasters use the useless phrase, “going forward.” My game is English. I leave football to the Seahawks.

  • jafabian

    Rooting for the Hawks but also a fan of both Quinn and especially Sark. Before he left he got the Husky program on the right track.