Pete Carroll Show: How an accountability meeting propelled Seahawks’ defense
The Seahawks had their best all around game of the season in a 28-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night, and most notably Seattle’s defense played well and the run game with a returning Carlos Hyde was a major factor.
As you can imagine, head coach Pete Carroll loved that style of football.
“I think it was really clear that we were able to return to the kind of style that we’ve grown familiar with over the years and I thought that Carlos Hyde really illustrated that with him hitting the line of scrimmage and running the football,” he said Friday morning on The Pete Carroll Show with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant. “He just set everything in motion for a well-balanced night, and the defense played a really nice ballgame.”
How did the defense get things turned around after such a bad start to the season? Carroll explained in his weekly radio show.
Accountability meeting pays dividends
For weeks, the Seahawks struggled in most areas on defense, mainly stopping the pass and getting after the quarterback. That changed on Thursday night.
When the Cardinals beat the Seahawks in Week 7, Seattle had no QB hits or sacks while Kyler Murray threw the ball 48 times for 360 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 67 yards and a score on the ground. Seattle made Murray’s life harder this time around with three sacks and hitting him seven times. Murray threw for 269 yards and two scores and had just 15 rushing yards, far and away his fewest rushing total this season.
Additionally, the Seahawks entered this contest allowing over 450 yards a game and the Cardinals had the top rushing attack with over 160 rushing yards a game. Seattle held Arizona to 315 total yards and just 57 rushing yards.
So what caused that dramatic of a shift? Carroll said it started with defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., who has been under a lot of scrutiny this year due to the defense’s play.
“It was Wednesday night and Kenny had a meeting where the players all go through their own position and what they have to do in some of our base calls, and it was one of the most remarkable defensive meetings I’ve ever been in,” Carroll said. “Every single guy just riffed on what he’s supposed to do, who he’s supposed to communicate with, how it’s supposed to work out, what you can count on coming from me. And then the next guy and the next guy, one after another after another (took their turn).”
Carroll called the meeting one of accountability and said that it allowed that group to get to “the next step” both as a defense and as an entire football team.
“I said something when we met as a team after that. I said something to the whole team of ‘Something just happened here’ and we’ve kind of evolved to the point where now we can go play,” Carroll said. “I thought it was just the first illustration of we’ll go play better now. We’ll get better than what we looked like the other night and we’ll continue to improve. It’s really exciting because it’s been a long haul and guys have had to go through a lot… to get there. … It’s a big step for us and I know everyone’s excited about that and I certainly am, too.”
That meeting clearly worked out, but the turn started last week in a loss to the Rams where the Seahawks allowed only one score after halftime. Carroll said it’s clear the defense is finally starting to show some chemistry, which was on display for a full 60 minutes against the Cardinals.
“It started last week but some stuff got away from us, but we still kept the points down somewhat last week,” he said. “But our guys, really, they’ve been together enough now. I’ve been saying it’s going to take a while because it’s just felt like that there’s too any loose ends that haven’t been cleaned up and the guys tightened everything down.”
Carroll said that Norton’s game plan worked well with the defense keeping the edges under control to keep Murray from scrambling outside the pocket, and that the group played “a really disciplined, tough” game.
“It was really fun to watch happen,” he said.
Shakeup on the O-line
Starting center Ethan Pocic missed his second game in a row with a concussion, and while Kyle Fuller was hurt, he was active and expected to start for the second week in a row at center. But instead of Fuller, it was starting right guard Damien Lewis, the rookie third-round pick, at center with Jamarco Jones playing at right guard.
Lewis’ night started rough with him allowing a sack on the first play, and he had some holding calls and caused a false start by mistiming a snap count, but Carroll was pleased with his performance.
“He survived it. He could be a really good center, he just needs some time,” Carroll said.
What made the performance more impressive was the lack of reps Lewis had in practice. Carroll said Lewis took about 15 snaps at center in last week’s practices, and while he was deemed the starter in practices this week, the Seahawks were in walkthroughs for those practices with only three days between contests.
“He didn’t get a full-speed rep because he just couldn’t, so game time, it caught up with him a little bit,” Carroll said. “But he did very well to survive it. I’m really pleased he can do that. It just makes us more flexible going down the stretch.”
The good news is Pocic is expected back next week against the Eagles and Lewis can slide back to guard, but his effort did not go unnoticed at all.
“I thought he did a great job pulling that off. It’s really difficult to do and he’d never played the position before, so it was a great job,” Carroll said.
Tre Flowers’ big game in coverage
The Seahawks were without their starting cornerbacks with Shaquill Griffin out for the third game in a row and Quinton Dunbar being placed on injured reserve just before the game. That meant Tre Flowers made his third start in a row and D.J. Reed got his second start at the outside corner spot after starting at nickel in Week 8.
Flowers, who started for the Seahawks in 2018 and 2019, was often lined up against one of the league’s top receivers in DeAndre Hopkins. Flowers kept Hopkins in check with five catches for 51 yards and no touchdowns. That was the third-fewest yards Hopkins has had in a game this season.
Carroll loved what he saw from the third-year defensive back, who had three tackles and broke up a pass.
“He’s continuing to play good football now. His mentality is really coming around,” he said. “There’s so much you have to play in that position with the presence you have to hold onto play after play after play, particularly against big-time players, and Tre is really coming around. I’m excited for his play.”
Carroll said it was clear from the start that Flowers was up for the challenge of defending Hopkins.
“I know he was pumped up about it because he knew he was stepping and kicking with him all night long, which means he’s on the line of scrimmage pressing him, and he did not back off at all,” he said.
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