The Seahawks’ 0-2 start to this season? The possibility that ends up keeping them out of the playoffs for the second consecutive year?
Pete Carroll has two words to say about that.
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“Yeah, it took us a couple of games to find the rhythm and the mix that we wanted to begin the season with. I misevaluated,” Carroll said Monday. “It’s not Brian, at all. I misevaluated a little bit how far we had come in the offseason. And we just needed to reevaluate.”
Carroll, a defensive mind who played defensive back through college football and came up as an assistant and coordinator on defense, didn’t specify what area of the offense he had “misevaluated” after this past offseason. But his comment and evidence from the first two weeks of this season strongly infer he meant pass blocking.
The Seahawks’ offensive line could not pass protect effectively or even adequately in those first two games. Russell Wilson was sacked an NFL-high 12 times through two weeks. He was beginning to rush himself, spin around and essentially sack himself because he believed he was about to get hit each time he dropped back to pass. That was because of constant pressure from swarming Broncos and Bears. All-Pro edge rushers Von Miller and Khalil Mack in those first two games did not need to concern themselves with any strong likelihood Seattle might consistently run the ball at them instead.
In the last four games entering Sunday’s return from their bye at Detroit (3-3), the Seahawks have passed 43 percent—a 30-percent reduction—and run it 57 percent of the time.
The result: they’ve won three of those four games, with the loss being by two points to the unbeaten Rams. The Seahawks remain convinced they would have won that game against Los Angeles this month if not for a holding penalty on guard D.J. Fluker in that pushed them out of field-goal range in the closing minutes.
“We reevaluated from week one to week two, (but) didn’t make the changes that we needed to make although we saw them after week one,” Carroll said Monday. “And (in) really fortunate fashion, we found it in week three, to really bring it back to the running game and make sure that was the essence of what we were all about, and we would build from there.
“That’s what we’ve done in the next month after that. And we’re still going and we’re still learning and growing. Russell has really become efficient. His numbers have gone up in all areas.”
Wilson was a 59-percent passer with five touchdowns and three interceptions through two games this season.
He’s completed 68 percent of his throws with eight touchdowns, one interception and seven sacks in the last four games since the Seahawks finally followed through on their promise since January to base the offense on running the ball.
It’s not as though the Seahawks’ line suddenly became exquisite pass blockers. They have undoubtedly improved and grown into new line coach Mike Solari’s schemes and calls. But the fact remains Seattle is also doing less of what the offensive line has done worst the last two seasons: pass blocking.
Then there’s the familiarity factor between Schottenheimer, whom Carroll hired in January to replace fired Darrell Bevell as offensive coordinator, and the wishes of the head man.
For example, at halftime of the loss at Chicago in week two, Carroll told Schottenheimer he wanted to attack what Carroll saw as a weakness in the Bears’ pass coverage down the field. Schottenheimer did his duty—to the extreme. Wilson threw it on six straight plays to begin the second half. The Seahawks went three and out on those two drives.
Those were the only possessions Seattle had in the third quarter. The offense went from the middle of the second quarter into the fourth without a single running play. Wilson ended up sacked six times and committed two crucial turnovers in the final period in the galling, 24-17 defeat.
With how often, and how well, the Seahawks are running now—190 yards on the ground against the vaunted Rams’ defensive front, three consecutive games with a 100-yard rusher for the first time since Marshawn Lynch was romping for them at the end of 2012—those first two games seem like another season ago for the Seahawks.
Seattle’s offense has gone from 29th in the NFL in rushing after two games to seventh now. The Seahawks have gone from allowing the most sacks in the league through two weeks to 11th-most now.
“Pass protection is just totally flipped in regard to the mix that we’re doing,” Carroll said. “That’s a credit to, Brian figured me out, probably, as much as anything. There’s something that might be most taxing, it might be me.
“He’s got it wired in pretty good right now. And we’ll try to keep growing.”