BY Art Thiel 05:46PM 10/09/2020

Thiel: Are Seahawks good with bad defense? Yup

It’s hard for Pete Carroll to imagine being a good team with a bad defense. But here he is, seeking an unprecedented 5-0 start. In a weird 2020, Seahawks can go deep.

In December, RB Chris Carson ran for 102 yards against the Vikings in the Seahawks’ 37-30 win.  Minnesota RB Dalvin Cook had 29 yards rushing. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Say, Pete Carroll: If I had told you a few years back that one day you would have a 4-0 start to a season in which you were statistically last in the league in defense, would you have bought it?

“I probably would have challenged that thought,” he said Friday, which is polite Pete-speak for suggesting I commit an act upon myself that is impossible to do, but nevertheless conveys his contempt for my very thought.

But here we are.

With a defense that sometimes can’t stop a drop of water with a sponge, the Seahawks are seven-point favorites Sunday night at home against the 1-3 Minnesota Vikings to go 5-0 for the first time in franchise history. Followed with a bye week to get several players past injuries.

In a time of a global health crisis that has convulsed everything including sports, the Seahawks at the season’s quarter-pole are tip-toeing through the figurative minefield as well as any enterprise. Despite numerous injuries, they are one of four 4-0 teams (Tennessee and Pittsburgh are 3-0) and have yet to be disrupted by the coronavirus.

“We’ve gone close to 60 straight days of everybody maintaining,” he said. “The odds just continue to grow . . .  it doesn’t get easier. It gets probably more difficult.

“There’s uncomfortable things that we have to do and say, and then, hold on.”

In case Carroll wondered what it felt like for Evel Knievel to jump his SkyCycle across the Snake River Canyon, now he knows.

While the virus threat remains constant, the Seahawks’ seasonal launch ramp certainly has been kind.

Turns out that none of the first four opponents — 0-4 Atlanta, 2-2 New England, 1-3 Dallas and 1-3 Miami — were very good. And Minnesota’s only victory was the past Sunday against a divided 0-4 Houston team that fired this week its head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien.

As for the rest of the seasonal trip, the Seahawks have yet to play any of their NFC West rivals, the Rams (3-1) Cardinals (2-2) and 49ers (2-2). But of the six non-division opponents left, only Buffalo (4-0) has a winning record. After Minnesota, the Seahawks will be favored over Philadelphia (1-2-1), Washington (1-3), New York Giants (0-4) and New York Jets (0-4).

Yes, we all know anything can happen/play ’em one at a time/don’t look ahead, and random yadda yadda. The fact remains there appears to be at the moment in the NFL only one standout team, the defending champion Kanas City Chiefs, particularly after the discovery that Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady can no longer count to four.

For the Seahawks’ chances, it’s not a stretch to envision, for example, a split of the six division games and a loss at Buffalo leaving the Seahawks with a 12-4 record.

That’s how a bad defense can be survived in order to provide at least a fair shot at the NFC’s No. 1 seed and its lone first-round bye this year.

Carroll argued Friday that the defense, giving up a league-worst 476 yards a game, isn’t, well, you know, bad bad.

“I’m proud of the way these guys are playing,” he said. “They’re playing as hard as hell, they’re working hard at their principles, they’re they’re giving us the efforts that makes a difference.

“Our numbers aren’t what we like. So as long as we keep getting better and we keep working, you feel good about the way that the guys are going about it, and the way we’re practicing. This is what we have to live with.”

Carroll also had a favorite comeback to deploy.

“I would have been hard-pressed to say we’d giving up whatever we’re giving up in passing yards and be able to win the games,” he said. “But I would have said, ‘Well, what’s our turnover ratio?'”

At the moment, it’s plus-five, tied with the Chiefs for second, one behind the Cleveland Browns. Point taken.

The other thing he could have said was that the Seahawks’ run defense average 0f 75.8 yards a game is ranked third, which is handy for Sunday because Vikings RB Dalvin Cook leads the NFL with 5.7 yards a carry.

This would be the same Dalvin Cook that, in the Seahawks’ 37-30 win over the Vikings in December, had 29 yards in nine carries.

And that was before the arrival of DT Damon “Snacks” Harrison.

Signed as a free agent Wednesday, Harrison, a former All-Pro, is 350 pounds of scrimmage-line hugs. Carroll was non-committal Friday about advancing Harrison from the practice squad to the active roster (Update Saturday: Harrison remained on the practice squad and will not play Sunday).

It seems plausible for Carroll to imagine the unimaginable — a highly successful team without a good defense. As long as Russell Wilson continues to cook, the defense provides Snacks, and all agree to wash hands and mask up, it is possible to have a gourmet experience in the weirdness of the 2020 NFL.


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YourThoughts

  • Drew Griffin

    “polite Pete-speak for suggesting I commit an act upon myself that is impossible to do”. This may be the greatest line from you yet, Art. Thank you

    • art thiel

      Glad you enjoyed. He handled the question well.

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  • Chris Alexander

    I disagree with the idea that “there appears to be at the moment in the NFL only one standout team, the defending champion Kanas City Chiefs”

    First off, San Diego started a rookie QB against them in Week 2, one that hadn’t taken many reps during the week and only got the start because a team doctor punctured the starting QBs lung before the game.

    San Diego led after the first quarter (7-0), at halftime (14-6), and heading into the 4th quarter (17-9). KC tied it then won it in overtime on a 58-yard field goal. Mahomes was “merely mortal”, requiring 47 attempts to get 27 completions and just over 300 yards. The rookie QB on the other side actually outperformed him (IMO), going 22 of 33 for 311.

    Woulda, shoulda, coulda’s aside, KC’s experience gave them a narrow win.

    Then came the Monday Night crap fest against the Patriots.

    With Cam Newton at home quarantining, and New England flying to KC on two planes just hours before kickoff, this one should have been a rout. Especially given how poorly New England’s QBs played. Plural. Instead, it was 6-3, KC, at halftime.

    New England went 3 and out on their first possession of the second half, got the ball back, then drove from their own 16 to the KC 10. Brian Hoyer was 15 of 24 for 130 at that point with no TDs and 1 INT. On 3rd down, at the 10, down 3, Hoyer got sacked and fumbled the ball. His night was over. Jarrett Stidham replaced him on the next drive.

    Things did not get better for New England. At first it seemed like they did, with New England answering KC’s touchdown with a 6-play TD drive of their own. But Stidhams last 3 drives ended with a pick-6, an INT, and a turnover on downs. Game over.

    Stidham finished the night 5 of 13 for 60 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs.

    Mahomes was 19 of 29 for 236 with 2 TDs and no INTs. Which isn’t bad. But aside from the fact that New England’s QBs stunk up the joint, the refs also let KC keep the ball at least once, maybe twice, when it should have been New England’s ball instead. KC did not look “good”; New England simply looked (and played) worse.

    Simply put, KC could just as easily be 2-2 right now instead of 4-0. And, yes, I know that the same can be said of Seattle. If Cam had scored instead of being stopped on the goal line on the final play or if Dak had thrown the ball away instead of making a desperation throw into the end zone one play too soon, Seattle could be 2-2 instead of 4-0.

    But the difference is that Russ and the offense looked good in all 4 games for Seattle. Mahomes and the KC offense looked average, or worse, in 2 of their 4 games. And that’s leaving out the fact that Lamar Jackson had arguably his worst game as a pro when Baltimore faced KC in Week 3 (15 of 28 for 97 yards, 1 TD, and a net of only 70 yards after subtracting 4 sacks).

    Were it me saying which team has looked the best so far – and were I not allowed to say Seattle because we’re talking about TEAM, not just offense . . . I’d give the nod to Green Bay.

  • SeattleSince57

    I prefer the let Russ throw,
    Seahawks build a lead,
    Then the run game comes in, to run out the clock.

    • art thiel

      Welcome to the restaurant. First time?

  • jafabian

    Nationally televised game. Kirk Cousins kryptonite. If the defense can occasionally get a pass rush going it will be a long night for Cousins and a success for DangeRuss.

    • Husky73

      The true DANGER is Danger Jim Forman of KING TV….. “The 80 mile per hour gusts racking my body are now ramming the logs from the beach into my back. I’m going to seek refuge here in this burning building, home to several species of venomous snakes. If we can move the camera over to my right, you will be able to see the steel beams about to fall on me. This is Jim Forman reporting from Ballard for KING 5 News.”

      • art thiel

        Younger readers will miss the reference, but it’s true. And one older reader probably doesn’t know No. 3’s twitter handle is @DangeRussWilson.

    • art thiel

      Cousins had one good game at the Clink w/WA a few years ago, but hasn’t been strong against the Seahawks.

  • 1coolguy

    The saying “defense wins championships” still holds true, but offense is critical in these times. An aspect of Pete’s offense of ball control, running the ball, is it keeps the ball out of the other teams hands and of course keeps our defense fresh.
    What I see is the passing game now limits the running backs to fewer runs per game, and at the end of the season and the playoffs it results in fresh legs for the running backs (remember we lost or top 2-3 backs, incl Carson, last year?) and they will be even more effective against defenses that may be banged up.
    So I see RW carrying the offense as he has through most of the season, then seeing the running game getting more of the action later. Imagine a fresh Carson for the playoffs? Teamed with RW? That will be tough to beat.

    • art thiel

      I agree. Carroll regarded the RB injuries as a team calamity. Fun as it was, bringing back Lynch was naked desperation. If Seahawks can limit per-game carries to 25 among 3 RBs and get to 30 pts for most of the season, it’s a huge success.

  • Stephen Pitell

    Bend but don’t break. We’ve always been this kind of defense and the big difference is we don’t slow the game down now. We don’t insist on running. We don’t fall behind. These are the biggest reasons we are allowing massive yards while winning.

    when we get to the red zone, we get our stops. Tre Flowers is a disappointment so far, but he’s the same guy who played CB for the previous two years. Dunbar may fix that, and/or Flowers will take the next step. The young DL will make improvements. Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      Most good NFL defenses are BBDB. That’s not new anywhere. What’s new here, as you point out, is getting ahead early via the pass. Also relatively new is poor secondary communication that has left young guys on islands. Backing off on blitzes helped a lot.

  • Bobby Cobb

    Things will get tougher when the Seahawks play their NFC West rivals, who know them well. Can Russ cook against Aaron Donald and Co.?