BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 11/02/2018

Thiel: Even Carroll is surprised at the Seahawks

Russell Wilson’s perfect passer rating Sunday, the first in Seahawks regular-season history, is symbolic of so many things coming together on offense that even Carroll is surprised.

Against the Chicago Bears, Russell Wilson was “over-trying,” said coach Pete Carroll. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Complimenting QB Philip Rivers on his football intelligence, LB Bobby Wagner recalled from the preseason game between the Chargers and Seahawks when Rivers called a timeout at the line of scrimmage, knowing his play call would be doomed against Seattle’s defensive set. More impressively, Rivers even knew the name of the Seahawks’ play.

“I’m like, ‘We just changed the name yesterday, how’d you do that?'” Wagner said. He guessed that defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, the former Seahawks D-boss, had something to do with it, but still: “The quarterbacks know the play, they never know the name of the play.”

Rivers’ craftiness is why the Seahawks defense is up against its gnarliest test at the Clink Sunday (1:05 p.m., CBS), aside from the Rams. The 5-2 Chargers are averaging 402.7 yards a game, sixth in the NFL, and Rivers, 36, is third in passer rating at 117.8.

Then again, the Chargers face a similar problem: Doing something about fellow smart guy Russell Wilson, who after a couple of meh games to start the season, now is helming a high-IQ operation that seems to make fewer mistakes as the season proceeds.

To cite one team benchmark, the Seahawks have scored (TD or FG) on 17 of 19 red zone possessions, an 89.5 percent rate that is third in the NFL. To cite an individual marker, Wilson’s passer rating is 112.8, sixth in the league and, if maintained, would be a career high.

The number had a big boost Sunday in the 28-14 triumph at Detroit when Wilson had a career first — a perfect passer rating of 158.3 points.

How rare was the deed? It was the first in Seahawks regular-season history.

In NFL annals dating to 1948, the feat has been done only 70 previous times, just nine in this pass-happy decade.

The rating formula has been around since 1973, with these minimum requirements:

Ten or more pass attempts, no interceptions, 77.5 percent completion rate, 11.88 percent touchdown rate, 12.5 yards per attempt.

Wilson was 14 for 17 with no picks, 82.4 percent completion rate, 17.6 percent TD rate and 14.6 yards per attempt. Given the travails of the 2017 offense, which often couldn’t open a door without breaking its figurative nose, the turnaround in efficiency borders on the astonishing.

Pro Football Focus observed that even under pressure, Wilson was five for seven for 82 yards and completed all nine of his pass attempts targeted at least 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, including 3-for-3 for 96 yards and a touchdown on throws 20-plus yards downfield.

Even coach Pete Carroll, who rarely admits to surprise at success, is surprised at this success.

“I think the sense we have for who we’ve become has exceeded (expectations),” he said Monday. “It’s really clear what we’re trying to do. We’re a little bit unique in how we’re going about it. Our ability to kind of capture that has surprised me a little bit.

“I had hoped it would be here even earlier, but I think that it’s so clear and we’re so direct on how we’re going to try to play these games . . . is a pleasant surprise.”

The upgrade in the rushing game has been the prime component. Adding veteran guards D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy, a commitment to blocking tight ends and tackle-eligible George Fant, plus good health for RBs Chris Carson and Mike Davis, has created efficiency from near-chaos.

“Talent,” said C Justin Britt, when asked to explain the year-over-year productivity. “The biggest difference this year from last year is so many weapons on offense. That’s what we were missing last year — the personnel to do what we needed to do.

“Being balanced (between run and pass), this year things are clicking. We have a smart, hard-working group.”

Wilson was quick to dismiss the personal significance of the perfecto, but there was no denying the symbolism of the game-long continuity the number represented.

“I think it goes back to the offensive line with our run game,” he said. “But also they give me enough time to make some decisions in the passing game to really throw the ball and make a lot of plays in the red zone. We’ve been lights out in the red zone.

“We have that attack mentality. We want to go for it. We’re not waiting.”

When Wilson throws, a higher percentage are shots — his 16 touchdowns through seven games matches Dave Krieg’s club record for the same span — but the running game is as annoyingly steady as a 4 a.m. jackhammer. The Seahawks gained 176 yards on the ground Sunday on 42 carries, but the longest run was one by Carson for 12 yards.

The line’s maturation almost seems like dawn to the Seahawks. Remember when they were 0-2 and Carroll said Wilson was “over-trying”? That is so September now.

“Russ would always be this efficient if we protected him like this, is what I feel about him,” Carroll said. “There’s nothing that he can’t do. We’ve just got to give him a chance. In years past, he had been ducking and dodging quite a bit more. It’s pretty obvious he’s been all over the place. He hasn’t had to be (now).

“I’ve always said he could be a 70-percent completion guy. In this format, there’s no doubt in my mind he could be. That’s when we’re really dangerous.”

Then, imagine what it might be like once Wilson is smart enough to tell the opposing defense what it’s running, by name.


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YourThoughts

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    We’re 4-3 right now ; ride along on Captain Optimistic’s Magical 10 Win Bus Ride with me :

    Hawks vs. Chargers at home – win
    Hawks vs. Rams away – loss
    Hawks vs. Green Bay home – win
    Hawks vs. Panthers away – loss
    Hawks vs. Niners home – win
    Hawks vs. Vikings home – win
    Hawks vs. Niners away – win
    Hawks vs. Chiefs home – loss
    Hawks vs. Cardinals home – win

    As the conference sits now – marinating in mediocrity other than the top 3 – ten wins should at least secure you a 6 seed , if not a 5 . Get their foot stuffed in the playoff doorjamb and anything’s possible ! How many times have we seen a 6 seed ( cough – Steelers – cough ) run the table ?

    On a side note ; I watched Thursday Night Football last night . That Raider offensive line is atrocious . Reminds me of ours last year . I wonder … could there be any connection ? Maybe some O-line coach of similar ilk as ours was last season ? Naw ..

    • dingle

      I was particularly amused when Joe Buck referred to Tom Cable as “one of the best in the business.” I may have chuckled a bit, even.

      And why was I abusing myself with a truly forgettable Thursday night matchup? Because watching the Oakland Raiders trainwreck-meets-dumpster fire is too good to pass up. Especially watching Jon Gruden look increasing constipated as the game goes on.

      • Theyfinallyfiredcable

        The look on Chucky’s face after that last Niners touchdown was hysterical ! That was just a train wreck of a game . Who says Thursday Night Football is no fun ?!

        • art thiel

          Players, mostly. They hate them, for all the obvious reasons.

      • art thiel

        If you heard Joe Buck said it, he would have to have been in your home.

        • dingle

          Hm. I’m fairly certain that was Joe Buck and Troy Aikmann calling the game on my Amazon stream on Thursday. Although, I admit that I switched over to the Hannah Storm / Andrea Kremer audio feed when I found out it was available.

    • Rreaunai Lovett

      Predictions make so sense.
      Every year Seattle wins games no one gave them chances at winning, so to say Green Bay (0verrated), Kansas City, Carolina and Rams are going to beat them is silly.
      2012-beat New England (coming off of Super Bowl season), won at Chicago and won at Washington.
      2015 beat Pittsburgh, won at Minnesota 2x, won at Arizona. That’s 4 wins over division champs and 3 were on the road.
      2016-beat Super Bowl champions on their field, beat Atlanta.
      2017-beat Super Bowl champion Philly.
      Seattle can beat any team in the NFL, anytime, anywhere.

      • Theyfinallyfiredcable

        If you look again , you’ll see I have Green Bay as a win . But you’re right , predictions are just that – a guess at what might happen before the games are played . There’s the old adage “on any given Sunday” , so we could also LOSE to any team in the NFL as well , including the Niners or Arizona . But baring major injuries to guys like Wilson or Wagner , I’m fairly confident in predicting a 9 or 10 win season this year .

      • art thiel

        Assuming you meant “no” sense, they’re not supposed to make sense, they’re supposed to be fun. Fans love to live in the future, players and coaches must live in the now.

    • art thiel

      The Cable-haters such as you must have been like pigs in slop Thursday night.

      • dingle

        I don’t know that Cable’s a bad O-line coach. Mostly he’s had bargain-bin talent to work with (at least in Seattle, anyway; I can’t say anything intelligent about his Oakland linemen, because I’ve only seen them once, on a Thursday, and the whole team seem really disinterested.

        He managed to keep Russell Wilson from being dismembered, so I guess that’s something?

        • art thiel

          Bevell and Cable were geniuses when the Seahawks were winning, idiots whenever they lost. That said, change was necessary.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Sunday is a huge test. I’m a believer if they win. But Rivers beat them a few years back when they were really rough on defense and it seems to me it was here in Seattle. Is that right? The teams they have beaten so far this year have a combined record of 9-21. So…just sayin’. It’s all about when you play them, of course. They would beat Denver if they played them now. But this team, the Chargers, is strong on both sides of the ball and will be keying to shut the run. So…we’ll see. Still skeptical.

    • Theyfinallyfiredcable

      Chargers wins thus far : Bills , Raiders , Niners , Browns and Titans . Not exactly a gauntlet of formidable foes .

      • art thiel

        The win over the Titans happened only after TEN failed on a 2pt conversion and lost by 1.

    • Mark Thurston

      That loss to San Diego was actually in San Diego. . the weather was actually very humid. . seems we were ill prepared for that type of heat early in the season and that more than anything else seemed to be the biggest factor that day. . someone correct me if I’m wrong

      • Bruce McDermott

        No, you are right. It was in San Diego and it was hot. Didn’t play well. For some reason, the Hawks do not seem to play up to their abilities early in the season. But now we’re over that hump this season. Sunday should be a good game.

        • art thiel

          Might have been the hottest game in Seahawks history — over 120 on the field in SD. It’s a manly-man rule to never to use such things as excuses. But it wasn’t an excuse, it was a reason.

    • John M

      The Hawks safeties played tough last week. I expect he same this week . . .

      • art thiel

        Pro Football Focus graded Seahawks safeties as the top tandem in the NFL.

        • John M

          Wow. Did all the preliminary talk about the impossibility of replacing Kam and Earl stir some competitive genes in Thompson and McDougie??

    • art thiel

      The Chargers have lost to KC and LAR, and beaten five teams with a collective record of 12-28. The Chargers aren’t as good as their record.

      • Kevin Lynch

        Proof is in the pudding. Pudding comes out of the oven at 4:00 tomorrow. Rivers is one of maybe the top half dozen QB’s in the league in terms of ‘stride play’, i.e. Quarterbacks who are very, very difficult when playing at the top of their games, in stride. If the hawks cannot muster a good rush there will be trouble. Rivers is hot. We’ll see. Get him on his butt and the game will get easy.

  • Bruce McDermott

    The more I think of it, the more I wonder how Rivers DID know the name of that defense,
    When it was changed the day before? Isn’t the most obvious answer that somebody told him, after it was leaked from the Hawks? If so, that would be disturbing.

    • Ken S.

      That made me go hmmm, too. Knowing the play is one thing, knowing the current name and play made me wonder.

      • art thiel

        Coincidence is something we humans can’t handle. We need a conspiracy.

    • art thiel

      My guess is that the term was in somewhat common use, like “strong Bears right.” Rivers may have picked it up from Gus Bradley, so it was coincidence.

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  • John M

    I think Carroll nailed it. Give Wilson an extra second or two and he’ll make the play. It’s sometimes hard to see all the subtitles going on during a game, but the O-line is obviously more synced than they have been in some time. SD will probably be a tough game, but as clever as Rivers can be, I’m looking for a couple picks.

    • art thiel

      It’s an old adage: Less is more. The less Wilson is asked to do, the better he does what is asked.

  • Ken S.

    Guess I have to reevaluate the level of success the Hawks are going to have this year. After an oh fer 4 pre I gave the Hawks a 7-9 season. I’ll flip that to 9-7, and hope for better. The running game has been a treat to watch, just tell Russ to quit blocking! Makes me nervous. And the defense is showing some dominance.Earl who…???

    • art thiel

      Now we’re getting cocky, yes?

      I think Wilson does a fine job of getting in the way. He knows how to dodge downfield as well as he does in the pocket.

  • Husky73

    I know that the Spanos family sincerely tried just about everything for 20 years to replace The Murph (credit union stadium). But, I fail to see how moving to LA (and first, to Carson) was a good decision? The relocation fee, building a new team headquarters, contributions to the behemoth in Inglewood (which will be half full…and, have you been to Inglewood???), and perpetually being the jayvee to the Rams and Kroenkeville is a head scratcher. On the other hand, the Spanos family are billionaires who have been exceptionally successful business people….it must pencil out.

    • art thiel

      Lots of people are skeptical of the move, but they play the long game in the NFL. The owners extort hard, because they don’t want municipalities to take their teams for granted. There was no way SD was going to contribute large cash to a stadium, just as the Seattle did with the Sonics.

      It’s the great advantage of monopoly operators.

      • Husky73

        I understand that the city said no. But, are the Chargers really worth more playing as the jayvee in LA?

        • art thiel

          The presumption is they won’t be JV forever. Everyone was mocking the Rams in STL. Now look.

  • 1coolguy

    This performance by RW is exactly why it is inexcusable that PC and JS have overweighted the salaries to the defense. Here they had a pro bowl, possible HOF QB, and they hang him out to dry with incredibly lousy O lines. One just has to recall the prior best O line, and it was the first SB team, which then was lost to FA and never really recovered. I hope JS and PC have learned their lesson, as they have essentially stunted RW’s career and much worse yet, kept the team out of the SB with incredibly poor O lines, and probably, OL coaches.
    This season should be amazing to watch, going forward, and I just hope JS gets Fluker to sign a long term contract.

    • art thiel

      You’re missing a point: All good O-lines fall apart due to free agency. Once teams reach success, the players they keep must be paid higher salaries, and other positions get filled with cheaper players. The Seahawks’ line is full of high draft choices, but lines take time — and the right scheme.

  • Talkjoc

    Just wondering, who was it that first penned Tom Cable as a O-Line coaching guru? Agreeing with the posts of theyfinallyfiredcable and dingle. The change of OD coordinators was risky but boy has it worked out. BTW, is Prosise alive? Asking for an undertaker friend of mine.

    • art thiel

      I don’t think Cable is bad coach — he did help win a Super Bowl — but he’s committed to a zone blocking scheme that Carroll wanted to abandon in favor of power. Four of the five OLs are his guys, only Fluker is new.

  • Ron

    What are the chances Ken Norton Jr. brings Bruce Irvin to the Hawks now that he has been released by the Raiders?

    http://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/nfl-news-oakland-raiders-cut-de-bruce-irvin/1o7jwost396f11h1xjw3pd9dzh

  • ll9956

    I share Kevin Lynch’s skepticism. Rivers is a crafty fox with a very quick release. I predict it will be very difficult to sack him, hit him or even hurry him. The Hawks need to be careful to avoid roughing-the-passer penalties. The DBs will have their hands full. The Hawks need to bring their A+ game. I won’t be surprised if it’s a high scoring shootout.

    Go Hawks!!!

  • Mícheál Mac Cionnaith

    Thank You for another great article. This iteration of the Seahawks might not seem their best ever, but I think there is a magic that they are playing for Paul Gardner Allen. Legion of Boom OS 2.0 looks pretty darned good! Nobody (no real Seahawks’ fan) can watch the video on YT of Tedric Thompson on draft day . . . and keep a dry eye. Just look up “Tedric Thompson draft call,” and you’ll know what I mean. That guy is a REALLY good Free Safety.