BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 09/29/2020

Thiel: Seahawks pick a fine time to take to the air

Talk about timing. Pete Carroll picked the season the pandemic cut short practice to convert his offense from ground to air, where defenses haven’t been able to keep up.

DE Benson Mayowa nearly had him, but QB Dak Prescott pulled away to throw an end zone interception on the Cowboys’ final offensive play Sunday. / Corky Trewin, Seattle Seahawks

If it seems to you that most NFL games so far have been super-spreader events for offense, you would be a gridiron Anthony Fauci. If the current 25.4-point average per team continues for the rest the season, it would be an NFL record by about two points.

Helping lead the early engorgement of points are the Seahawks. Six teams have 90 or more points — Green Bay (122), Seattle (111), Buffalo (93), Baltimore (91), Kansas City (91) and Atlanta (90).

Three games into his transformation from Fred Flintstone to George Jetson (look ’em up, kids), coach Pete Carroll is doing his best to get his head wrapped around the change.

“What we’re seeing is a huge commitment to the throwing game,” he said on his Monday morning radio show on 710 ESPN. “People are just not satisfied to stay in balance. As long as you keep from turning the ball over, you’re going to be OK.”

Fortunately, his co-driver in Seattle’s flying car, Russell Wilson, is careful with the football. The Seahawks lead the NFL in turnover ratio at plus-four. In fact, their only turnovers are reception mistakes off two well-thrown balls.

Against New England in Week 2, TE Greg Olsen let a pass clank through his hands and turn into a pick six. Sunday against Dallas, WR DK Metcalf was too cool for school after catching a 53-yard rainbow, going flaps down ahead of the touchdown and allowing the the ball to be punched out of his hands and through the end zone for a touchback.

That’s 12 points that escaped the Seahawks on two turnovers, which explains why Carroll was still seething Monday about Le Gaffe de Metcalf.

“A horrible play for us,” he said. “I mean, it goes against everything that we believe in. DK knew it. That made it one of the harder lessons that he’ll have to learn. But it’s a lesson for all of us: You finish everything.

“He’s getting pounded all over the league. The guy really cares. He’ll fix it. But it’s more important that everybody else does too. We point out that example out all the time when another team makes that error.”

As you can tell, a self-inflicted turnover is a grave misdeed. It’s why Carroll has been so risk-averse when it comes to throwing the ball early and often. It has taken until his ninth year for Wilson to earn Carroll’s trust.

But trust he has. It was a timely decision.

This peculiar season, absent much practice, has contributed to a lot of mediocre defensive production, well beyond Seattle. Eight teams have given up more than the Seahawks’ 86 points. The Packers have given up 85.

“I think the offenses just started much faster than the defenses,” Carroll said Monday afternoon at his Zoom presser. “I think it would be attributed to the lack of time in camp. Just the lack of time working out on the field really seems to have affected the defense more.

“The opportunity to play full-speed football in camp is a real benefit to developing your game. That being absent, there’s a factor there. I think the offenses are taking advantage of it a little bit.”

None more than the Seahawks. The Seahawks’ offense is eighth overall at 408 yards a game — fourth in pass yardage, 14th in rush yardage — made more impressive by breaking in three linemen new to their positions in Seattle, plus a new starting tight end in Olsen.

But Carroll still yearns for his mantra: Balance.

“We have not balanced out running as much as we normally do,” he said. “It’s because we’ve been so effective throwing the football.

“However, I think you’re going to find in the long term, balanced football is really what is crucial to this success in this game — big-time success, championship success.  You’ve got to be able to do everything that’s available to you to get through these games.”

On the other side, as much as fans are despairing over gas-pump numbers given up by the defense, Carroll trotted out his favorite contrarian benchmark — in games in which the opponent has passed for 400 yards, the Seahawks are 9-0, including two this year (it would have been all three, but New England punked out at 397 yards).

“It draws a lot of attention, a lot of focus, but it isn’t necessarily winning football,” he said. “We’d like to keep that (streak) going. But we do need to catch up. We we have not been nearly as effective (on defense).

“Maybe other teams feel the same way about that. Dallas gave up some big plays as well. So that kind of football can be fixed and can be can be adjusted. We certainly have to get that done.”

The Cowboys managed to heave three touchdown passes of more than 40 yards each against the Seahawks defense, something unheard of in the days of the Legion of Boom. Then again, the Cowboys were outgunned by Wilson’s five TD passes, giving him an NFL record 14 over the first three games.

As Pro Football Focus pointed out, the rest of the NFC West has 14 TD passes combined.

The Seahawks for now are winning the track meet, and draw Miami (1-2) and Minnesota (0-3) before a bye week starting Oct. 12.

Before any fan assumes a 5-0 mark, keep in mind that the Seahawks are two defensive plays from a 1-2 record.

“You got to feel fortunate that we’re winning our games,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot of other teams that aren’t able to get it done.”

As Carroll likes to say, it’s all about the ball. So far this season, as Carroll never likes to say, it’s all about the ball in the air.


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YourThoughts

  • Stephen Pitell

    Dallas was far from winning that game. Assume they managed a touchdown at the very end, they still have to make the extra point and that only gives them a tie and a chance for overtime.

    Defense STARTS with stopping the run. We can do that. As well as any team in the LOB era. Being ahead makes teams pass more, and pass into tighter windows if necessary. Desperate teams play desperately, and that means yards, but it also means turnovers.

    With the turnover lead in the NFL, I would say job well done. I’m not saying we have a world beater defense, but I am saying it’s not all gloom and doom.

    3-0 muthafuggers.

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    • LarryLurex70

      They got lucky at the end of the NE game. No, “it’s not all gloom and doom”, but there’s plenty they need to clean up, even without the injuries.

      • art thiel

        They earned the NE stop. The final DAL stop was a jump ball.

        No one is happy with the pass D.

        • LarryLurex70

          I’m not necessarily talking about the final play of the NE game, but, rather the Patriots march downfield that preceded it.

    • art thiel

      Good point about the run D. One-dimensional teams in the pass-happy NFL will always have some success, but if the Seahawks DBs had hung on to any of the several pick chances, the dramas at the end would have dried up.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! Thankfully, airing it out includes the most effective running back swing passes (about friggin’ time!!). The offense seems to be spreading the field more, and that option is a key contributor. Not sure where else to attribute: the current lack of lockdown defenses, us having a great set of receivers, including TE’s and good-hands RB’s, etc. We do get good chunks of yards from the running game, and a great passing game definitely helps that. Hopefully we’ve shed ourselves of the chronic often penalized O-linemen.

    It’s fun watching Russ do his thing. Schottenheimer must be going nuts with all of the options left to his disposal. Whatever the case, let’s enjoy the show while it lasts. The 3-0 teams fielding the most players that attended training camp at year end might just be the pair in Superbowl COVID.

    GO HAWKS!

    • art thiel

      Throwing early in the game and in the possession are breakthroughs. The offense is unpredictable. The coaches in the ATL game showed a lot of new stuff that subsequent DCs have to respect.

  • woofer

    “You got to feel fortunate that we’re winning our games,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot of other teams that aren’t able to get it done.”

    Science tells us that of the teams engaged in really close games, fifty percent lose them.

    • art thiel

      I’ll pass it on to Pete.

  • 1coolguy

    Here’s one for discussion: The long pass completions against this defense are what the Hawks historically have been great at defending and preventing.
    ET just had his offer rescinded by Houston today and Pete seems to be able to manage just about anybody.
    The Ravens are on the hook for his $10mm salary, so the Hawks can get him cheap.
    No question at 31 ET still has a year left in him – and as for the 40+ yard completions, they instantly go away with ET roaming the field.
    Art – What was ET like in the locker room? Was he a leader or a problem?

    • art thiel

      Earl was neither a problem nor a vocal leader. He was usually cooperative with media and gave honest answers. But something has happened to him that has made him toxic to football teams. Seahawks need to pass on a reunion.

      • Husky73

        Amen.

  • 1coolguy

    Presuming the extra point conversion, Metcalf’s “Leon Lett” move was a 9 point swing, including the 2 point safety. It also took away 1 TD from RW’s astounding 14 total.
    I hope Metcalf at least took RW to dinner, even though the entire team was deserving.

    • art thiel

      He’s taken a national scalding. You too?