BY Art Thiel 08:39PM 09/22/2019

Thiel: Bad sign when coach gets hurt pre-game

The Seahawks have had odd games before, but none started with the coach getting hurt pre-game. Then things grew weirder, a 33-27 loss to the Saints the weirdest of all.

Seahawks RB Chris Carson is about to be struck from behind by CB Eli Apple (25), leading to a fumble that the Saints turned into a scoop-and-score touchdown by SS Vonn Bell. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Omens are for the superstitious. But foreshadowing? Yeah, we rational folks can run with that. So let’s propose an NFL maxim that says: Anytime your head coach has to take stitches after the pre-game warm-up, it’s going to be a bizarrely foul day.

Otherwise, there is no explanation for why the Seahawks were so astonishingly inept in nearly every phase of Sunday’s game, including coaching decisions.

The New Orleans Saints certainly had a bit to do with stimulating the opportunity — like making sure injured QB Drew Brees’s replacement, Teddy Bridgewater, never held the ball beyond the count of “one-mississippi . . . ” . But the Saints often were more spectators than perpetrators in the 33-27 Seattle implosion (box) that left a Clink full house and a region stunned. It was the first home loss in September in the Pete Carroll era.

The Saints were not a party to the Seahawks lining up illegally for a field goal attempt, which failed but was erased by the penalty, and subsequently turned into a New Orleans touchdown. The Saints were not responsible for injured and ineligible Tedric Thompson running onto the field to celebrate a play, costing the Seahawks 15 yards, helping thwart a drive that went scoreless. The Saints had nothing to do with Carroll, packing two timeouts, mismanaging the clock in the final 30 seconds of the first half, wasting a 54-yard completion by failing to leave enough time to attempt a field goal.

There’s more, but you get the drift.

“I had a particularly bad day,” said Carroll, whose plus for candor didn’t out-weigh the minuses of his decision-making. “There were too many I had to make some things happen, and I tried too hard at times.”

And about that bright red gash on your nose?

“I got smacked in the nose with the football,” he said. “Last play of warmups.

“I didn’t see it coming.”

As can be seen in the video, rookie LB Cody Barton was tossing a ball toward a staffer as Carroll began jogging toward the pre-game locker room. Given subsequent events, it might be the most significant pass of the day.

Carroll didn’t elaborate on whether the blow impacted his thinking. But it seemed a viable question, at least regarding the episode just before halftime. Down 20-7 with the ball at the Seattle 21, 29 seconds to go and two timeouts, QB Russell Wilson had a nine-yard completion to TE Nick Vannett. But no timeout was called.

In the hurry-up offense, Wilson with 10 seconds left heaved a bomb that rookie WR DK Metcalf somehow pulled down between two defenders the the Saints’ 16-yard line. It was exactly the kind of play for which he was hired. But the clock ran out before the Seahawks called a timeout to set up for a field goal attempt.

Carroll’s explanation sounded . . . incomplete.

“Russ came up with some magic and made a great play with DK,” he said. “If we knew that was going to happen, I would have called time out earlier. But, it didn’t work.

“That was just kind of how this thing went. It was one of those days.”

Um . . . yeah.

It was one of a myriad of mistakes that were self-imposed. As Carroll put it,  “So many things happened that (we) just hurt ourselves. Even the coach got hurt.”

Down 27-7 entering the fourth quarter, the Seahawks put on something of a rally. But even Wilson’s stupendous resolve couldn’t get them over the mountain of crap they had constructed.

As DT Quinton Jefferson put it, “We didn’t deserve to win with all those mistakes.”

Even the defense, which held the stripped-down Saints playbook to 177 yards passing and 88 yards rushing — the Seahawks had no sacks and two QB hits — nevertheless missed numerous tackles, open-field and between the tackles.

“That was very uncharacteristic of us,” said LB K.J. Wright. “We might have five of those in a (normal) game.”

But this game was driven into the perverse by two plays, one entirely unexpected and another numbingly predictable.

The Saints’ first score came off of Seattle’s normally reliable special teams. A low, 38-yard punt from Michael Dickson was returned 53 yards by Deonte Harris for a touchdown past a coverage team that looked bewildered.

Their second score came when RB Chris Carson, after a 23-yard gain that was his longest of the day, had the ball punched from his grasp, for the third time in three games. This one turned into the worst outcome, a 33-yard scoop-and-score by SS Vonn Bell.

Carson’s contributions have been considerable (53 yards in 15 carries Sunday), but he just doesn’t seem to keep ball tight against his body.

“He’s been a marvelous player on this team, and he has to fix this,” Carroll said.
“I can’t fix it for him, but we’ll help him.”

Carson knows he’s now the target for every ball-hawk in the league.

“If you see somebody fumble, of course they’re going to try and go after that,” he said. “I just need to keep my elbow tucked, and that’s it.”

Yet it turned out to be the Seahawks’ only turnover. The Saints offense had only 50 plays, nine possessions and two TD scoring drives, of 58 and 75 yards. They averaged 5.3 yards per play to Seattle’s 6.8. But the Seahawks’ inordinate number of mistakes more than made up for the statistical difference.

Still, in the fourth quarter of most any game Wilson plays, there was a chance.

For another couple of mistakes, it turned out.

Inside 10 minutes, the Seahawks were on their own 28 facing fourth-and-1 on a drive they needed to keep alive. Instead of a run or short pass, Wilson dropped back for a heave of more than 40 yards that was well past WR Malik Turner.

Too make matters worse, Carroll surprisingly challenged the play, seeking pass interference. Contact was minimal, the call upon review stood, and the Seahawks were dunned a timeout that might have proven important.

The ball went over on downs and the Saints took nine plays to travel the 28 yards for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.

“They had everybody on the line of scrimmage, and it’s a check out of the play we were running,” Carroll said. “(The long pass) was a very aggressive thought in how we do it . . . we tried to take advantage and score a touchdown right there.”

Instead, possession was lost, as was the game.

As usual Wilson did his part — 32 completions in a career-high 50 attempts for 406 yards and two TDs, plus another two rushing (51 yards in seven carries).

But with 13 games left, it remains to be seen whether he can carry 45 teammates and the coaching staff on his back by himself. Particularly if his duties include telling his coach to duck.

Pete Carroll’s nose was cut pre-game by an errant football. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest




  • Tim

    I actually think the hit on the nose could have definitely affected his thinking. But, there were some very uncharacteristic miscues that seem very fixable. I was tempted to turn off the television at the end of the 3rd quarter, but then I remembered the Green Bay game in the NFC Championship. Even when they’re sputtering, this team is dangerous.

    • art thiel

      A lot is fixable, but a lot has been consistent through three games, two of which were won by one and two points. I think the O-line is the biggest unexpected problem.

      • Drew Bouton

        I was gobsmacked by some sort yardage plays. I think the secondary was the biggest expected problem; Aside from Tedrick “Parka Play” Thompson’s lack of impulse control (is it true he was headed over to tear down the nearest goalpost to continue his celebration when an assistant coach waylaid him?), watching Bradley McDougald bounce off Kumara like he was playing for Nick Holt was the stuff of tragedy. As Aeschylus said, “We must suffer, suffer unto truth.”

        • art thiel

          It’s tell the truth Monday in Renton. It make take four hours.

          • Vasili

            One thing I hope comes up today in “tell the truth Mondays” is that for a Seattle team, the Hawks play terribly in the rain. I can’t recall a crappy weather game at home that they’ve won in recent years.

      • Ken S.

        I think the O-line is the biggest unexpected problem.Unexpected? Good Lord, Art! This has been an on-going problem for more seasons than I care to think about!

        • art thiel

          Were you out of town in 2018?

  • ll9956

    The statement about Russell carrying “45 teammates and the coaching staff on his back by himself” reminds me of one of my strongest gripes about NFL rules, namely that teams can have only 46 players active on game day. Maybe there’s some rhyme or reason buried deep within this rule, but I don’t see it. If every team can have 53 active players on its roster, they all should be able to play. Until someone convinces me otherwise, I will continue to consider the 46 player rule to be light years beyond stupid.

    As to the Hawks’ performance today, it goes down as one of the worst I can remember.

    • art thiel

      The number was set in collective bargaining with the union. There’s a salary savings with some players who don’t have guarantees. But 46 is a potentially dangerously low number if injuries force players into unaccustomed positions.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Next Sunday concludes the easier part of the schedule. After that things get tricky. Even finishing 9-7 with this competitive lineup of QB’s and opposing teams will be a challenge. If they can manage 10-6 they are still fighting an uphill battle against San Francisco and the L.A. Rams. To win the division at 10-6 they would need both teams to do no better than 7-6 the rest of the way and then they would need to split both series with L.A. and S.F. And, regarding wild cards, the Hawks have a poor record with the inevitable road games in the playoffs. They need to win the division.

    • art thiel

      Let’s not play out the season just yet. Given what happens at AZ annually, 2-2 looms.

  • Alan Harrison

    So far this season, we’ve had at least 2 of “those days,” if you include the shellacking we took from a horrible Cincy team that we never should have won, but somehow did. The time out thing at the end of the half was more than a head-scratcher, it was kind of incompetent. If we were just going to let the clock run out and regroup (regardless of the second half kickoff), there should never have been a pass to the TE, let alone the bomb to DK. And Carson – reminiscent of the Chicago game he disappeared from last year.

    • art thiel

      Good point about the Chicago game. Carson’s confidence has to be affected. And Penny was held out because of a hamstring strained Friday.

      • Vasili

        If Carson doesn’t get his act together, he’s going to be quickly buried on the depth chart behind Penny and Prosise.

  • jafabian

    Considering how rare home games can be in September for the Seahawks because of their roommate the Sounders and their neighbor the Mariners today’s loss was a missed opportunity, Fortunately they didn’t lose to a divisional rival. Unfortunately neither the Rams nor the Niners lost today and winning in Arizona is never easy to do. The line on both sides of the ball need to bring their A game next week because that’s where everything starts, at least that’s what Chuck Knox always said. The offensive line hasn’t had the kind of game we got used to seeing last season and the results show. On paper this was an evenly matched game but it was anything but. Hawks were playing catch up all day. Sean Peyton has to be feeling good about this game.

    • art thiel

      Payton stole one, pure and simple. When he reflects on his career, he will describe this one among his most memorable.

      • Vasili

        I don’t know that Payton stole this one, more than the Seahawks gifted it to the Saints. If the Seahawks drop their wallet and Sean Payton absconds away with it, then (pardon the mixed metaphor) this Saints’ victory was on the Hawks.

        • art thiel

          Anytime you come to Seattle without your best player and never trail in a decisive win, it’s a steal. Doesn’t matter than the Seahawks left the door unlocked.

  • skabotnik

    If this got mentioned in the broadcast, I must have missed it, but here’s a question: The 54-yard bomb to Metcalf at the end of the half was caught but an argument could be made that he was interfered with. There were two guys draped all over him. Could Pete have challenged there and possibly gotten an untimed field goal attempt to end the half? We’ll never know how 3 points there might have shifted the team mindset going into the locker room.

    • art thiel

      The 3 would have been helpful. I saw contact with Metcalf, but I don’t think I saw interference. I haven’t seen a replay to know whether the catch came with time on the clock.

  • Effzee

    Two costly brain-farts by Tedric Thompson in the first three weeks. Listening to Hugh, there are more than two. Thompson has to be gone, doesn’t he? Sean Payton’s surprise for Carroll yesterday was playing traditional football. The Saints imitated the Seahawks and beat us at our own game: solid fundamentals, special special teams, running the ball, and the QB getting rid of the ball quickly. None of the expected trickeration, no fancy wildcat with the 3rd string QB… just straight up butt-kicking. Kamara is a freak of nature. I wish we had a guy like that. Impressive. Clowney has zero football instincts. He’s just a big strong maniac who tries to run right thru the guy in front of him, but has absolutely no “nose for the ball.” Nice 5th round draft pick punter, guys. He got thoroughly out-punted again. Where the hell was Metcalf? He’s a go-to guy. He needs to be the starting split end, be on the field most of the game, and get a lot of targets. They need to use him like he’s Randy Moss or T.O., every single game. Period. Whether or not he’s “ready,” he’s the kind of rare freak that you have to treat like a rare freak, in hopes that he thrives by being treated just the way he is. If they think he’s that kind of player, then make him into that kind of player by giving him the ball. I’ve been accidentally hit in the face hard before. It’s totally jarring, it’ll ruin your day and affect your thinking. Its kinda like morning drinking, taking a nap and waking up surly at 4pm, but different.

    • art thiel

      Quite the laundry list. The most important one was Payton having a week of isolation on the road in Bellevue to plot a smart plan to keep Bridgewater from losing the game. Payton would have outfoxed Carroll anyway, but the probable concussion made it easier.

  • ReebHerb

    Both teams were sloppy. Seattle had almost twice the yardage and fewer penalties than NO. NO had two interceptions negated by offsides. Is it really a brilliant defensive scheme for NO to stuff the run and then allow 400 yards passing? I imagine NO fans are crowing this morning about their bending over but not breaking defense. Sloppy.

    • art thiel

      Lots of teams that throw for 400+ yards lose. The stat is often a false positive. The two bad 4th-down outcomes were killers.

  • tor5

    Yes, the game highlighted Hawk weaknesses, but we still would have won but for the weirdness factor.

    • art thiel

      As Sir Mixalot would say, that’s a big but.

      • tor5

        I guess I’ll have to give you that one, Art!

  • WestCoastBias79

    My theory is that Pete was concussed. In all seriousness, you don’t take a ball to the face hard enough to bust you open and not have it affect you mentally.

    That said, that was probably the most poorly I’ve seen them play under Carroll. Ultimately, it’s good this happened in September. This is a young team on the rise that was probably reading too much into the good press. Should serve as a wakeup call. Unfortunately, they just happen to be in probably the best division in football, so dropping winnable games is a terribly costly lesson.

    • art thiel

      Can’t argue with the observation. See above answer.

      Seahawks opened the season with the fourth-youngest roster. That showed up on the punt return.

  • Will Ganschow

    Your column couldn’t have been written more concisely. It might also be worth remembering that the two wins are by a total of three points. As someone who is almost two years older than Pete, it pains me to observe that yes age plays a roll in mental and physical dexterity. ( I was picturing McVay this morning privately making jokes about matching up against the geezer.) All that said, three or four wins in a row and we will all be falling over ourselves celebrating the genius and vibrancy of our esteemed football organization. A thoroughly bad win can provide so much feedback. (Can’t believe you haven’t written about the Cougs yet since Saturday.)

    • art thiel

      A football to the face is like a punch. I can’t imagine anyone of any age remaining at work without a loss of concentration and focus after being punched, and requiring stitches.

      I’ll write about the Cougs as soon as the game is over.

  • 1coolguy

    7 points in the first half – the Hawks need to open up the running game with RW’s passing, early, not waiting for him to save them with 4th quarter heroics.
    What’s wrong with putting a team away early???

    • art thiel

      The problem comes when the other team, even without Brees, is better than the Seahawks.

      • 1coolguy

        Brutal assessment Art, brutal.
        If only the rest of the team performed at RW’s level…………..

        • art thiel

          Not brutal. Honest and fair.

  • Warchild_70

    I thought I was watching a past game from the 80’s from the mostly pitiful tackling and some of the D frozen as the Saints ran roughshod over the LB’s whilst making T B (Terry Bridgewater) look like T B (Terry Bradshaw). Sad day in Hawkville.

    • art thiel

      Almost as bad as the 42-7 loss in 2017? At least that was a talent mismatch, not self-inflicted wounds.

      • Warchild_70

        OWCH!! Touche mon ami!