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.
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.
Highest completion % when kept clean in the pocket:
1. Russell Wilson – 85.7
T-2. Lamar Jackson/ Jared Goff – 80.6
4. Dak Prescott – 80.0 pic.twitter.com/gvHWYUnj1F
— PFF (@PFF) September 28, 2020
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.”
Dallas has allowed a 126.6 passer rating in coverage through Week 3.
The worst in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/HZ0KaGkDYD
— PFF (@PFF) September 28, 2020
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.