Pete Carroll Show: Seahawks’ loss was poor but they have ‘big upside’ going forward
The Seahawks’ Week 9 game in Buffalo against the AFC East-leading Bills didn’t go to plan with Buffalo jumping out to an early lead and maintaining it the rest of the way, resulting in a 44-34 loss for Seattle.
The Bills were really in control on both sides of the ball from the start of the game – quarterback Josh Allen took advantage of the Seahawks’ defense to pass for over 400 yards and four total touchdowns, and Buffalo’s defense forced four turnovers.
It was the first time the Seahawks have lost a game while surrendering 400 or more passing yards under head coach Pete Carroll, who, as he does after every Seahawks game, joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant for The Pete Carroll Show on Monday. Let’s look at what the head coach had to say.
Turnovers sink the ship
It’s no secret that Carroll is obsessed with turnovers. His teams have routinely been at or near the top in turnover differential since he was named Seahawks head coach in 2010, but in this most recent loss, his offense turned the ball over four times while his defense had no takeaways. Not exactly an ideal recipe for success in the NFL, especially against a team that is now 7-2.
“It was a really poor football game for us … We’re so connected to the turnover thing and all of the play before and all of the things we can talk about, but when you turn it over four times – teams that turn the ball over four times are 2-129 in the last 10 years or something like that – you just don’t have a shot,” Carroll said. “It’s just so far out of where we’re expecting to be in leading the NFL in turnover ratio after this game, which was the goal going in.”
The Seahawks’ best player, star quarterback Russell Wilson, was responsible for all four turnovers as he threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles. With the Seahawks playing from behind, they were forced to throw the ball more and the Bills were ready.
“When you play from behind, you get more vulnerable in throwing the football and our protection didn’t hold up,” Carroll said.
Carroll said the first of the two interceptions was a result of Wilson trying to make something happen on fourth down in the red zone, and that’s what he should do. The second one, which was on third-and-long, was just a poor decision as Wilson tried to start a comeback.
“He pushed that one and he would tell you he probably shouldn’t have thrown that ball that late where he threw it,” Carroll said.
But the turnovers weren’t all on Wilson, who was knocked down 16 times by Bills defenders. That’s the most any quarterback has been knocked down in a single game in the NFL this year.
“The two on the sacks, those are protection issues. Those are us being in catch-up mode, that’s us having to throw the football, and we’ve got to protect better than that,” Carroll said. “We can’t let him get banged like that and he got a couple balls knocked out. I think you can talk through the two picks, but the forced fumbles, we’ve got to do a way better job as a group and he’s got to get the ball out, too when he’s feeling the heat.”
Carroll noted that the Seahawks’ top two running backs, Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde, were out due to injury, and that they’d like to be able to run the ball more so that teams can’t key in on the passing game like Buffalo did.
“It’s a little easier to call your stuff when you know the game situation,” he said. “When the game is evened up and all that, you’re more unlikely to take chances and things. So they were able to get after it and get going pretty good.”
Pass rush improves, but defense struggles mightily overall
Two weeks after getting no sacks or QB hits in a loss against the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks had their best pass rushing performance in quite a while, tallying seven sacks of Allen. The defense also had two more that were nullified due to penalties. That performance has the Seahawks on pace for 38 sacks this season, which would be 10 more than they had last year.
“What we’ve been really grouching about for some time is the pass rush and getting after the quarterback,” Carroll said. “The last couple weeks, we’re tallying 10 sacks and that’s a whole different turnaround for us in that regard. And it didn’t translate in us winning the football game, unfortunately.”
While the pass rush was able to make an impact, Allen routinely diced up Seattle’s secondary, which was without top cornerback Shaquill Griffin. Tre Flowers played in place of Griffin, and Carroll said the third-year corner played perhaps his best NFL game, but the other starting cornerback, Quinton Dunbar, was banged up and really struggled in coverage.
“That’s a really good sign that he’s coming around and really playing with confidence and really good technique-wise. We need him,” Carroll said of Flowers’ performance. “We need him desperately to keep going and it’s good to see that happen. The other side, we just struggled on the other side of the field and we’ve just got to help him out more.”
It was the third time this season the Seahawks have allowed over 400 passing yards, but Carroll said his defense, which allowed nearly 300 passing yards in the first half alone, did make adjustments and showed improvement. The Bills didn’t try to run the ball really at all, which surprised Carroll.
“We had to shift gears and if you watched, we did,” he said. “We had to change our coverage principles, change our pressure principles during the game to go ahead and get after it. That was the way they wanted to play it, so sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
The good news is Carroll thinks that the pass rush, which saw the debut of recently-acquired defensive end Carlos Dunlap and the return of safety Jamal Adams, can be a building block towards overall defensive improvement.
“Our commitment is utilizing our talent and guys who have a knack for pass rush, so that’s always really important. Jamal certainly showed up there and did a nice job,” Carroll said.
First place with potential to be much better
The Seahawks are 6-2 after the Week 9 loss, which is still tops in the NFC West and puts them in the No. 2 seed in the conference behind the 6-2 New Orleans Saints due to winning percentage in conference games per ESPN. Carroll said being in first place in the division at the halfway point is a great thing, especially because this team, primarily the defense, can play so much better the rest of the way.
“There’s eight games (left) in the year and we’re in first place in our division and we have so much room to get better. I keep saying that because that’s the truth. It still feels like a new team,” he said. “When you’ve got two or three new guys coming back on the defense, there’s room to grow there and there’s room to improve … We’ve got a big upside, so we’ve got to go.”
Carroll said the message to his defense going forward is a simple one.
“We have to clean up our stuff. We can’t allow a good football team and a really quality quarterback to have some easy goes at us,” he said. “We made a few mistakes early that are really just fundamental … You can try as hard as you want, be as fired up as you want, but you’ve got to do things right. We can do better. There are things that we’ve practiced that we didn’t execute in the game, and the concepts that they ran that we had prepared (for).”
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