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Pete Carroll Show: Seahawks’ coach explains what went wrong on offense

Pete Carroll thinks the Seahawks needed to run the ball more in 2020. (Getty)

The Seahawks’ 2020 season came to an abrupt end with a 30-20 playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams that was more one-sided than the score may indicate.

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After winning the NFC West for the first time since 2016, the Seahawks went one-and-done in the playoffs for just the second time in nine playoff appearances during Pete Carroll’s 11-year tenure. The typically optimistic Carroll was uncharacteristically down after the loss when discussing the game and the season with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant Monday morning on The Pete Carroll Show.

“Yeah, it was really hard,” Carroll said. “And it was a game that it could have gone right down to the wire in a tough defensive football game and (Rams cornerback Darious Williams’ interception return for a touchdown) was the difference throughout the game and just kept hanging out there. And we just needed to keep it close and play tough and play to the finish like we have so many times and we just weren’t able to get that done.”

Carroll discussed a lot in the interview with Danny O’Neil, Paul Gallant and former NFL receiver Michael Bumpus. Here are a few takeaways from Monday morning.

Carroll wants to run more on offense

It’s no secret that Carroll loves running the football. That’s been a trademark of the Seahawks since he arrived in Seattle in 2010.

After a hot start to the season in the passing game, opposing defenses started running more two-high safety looks to take away Seattle’s deep passing attack, and the result was a far less efficient and dynamic offense over the last eight weeks of 2020 plus the playoff loss. Carroll said the Seahawks should have adapted to that better by getting back to what they know best.

“Really from the Giants game, all those teams were pretty similar in the way they played their fronts and the way they played their coverage,” he said. “Our history has been to run the football at those teams and we were not in that mode of dominantly going after the running game.”

Carroll said that the Seahawks never committed to the run late in the year against good defenses in a way he would have liked to see, especially given what opposing teams were doing with their defensive formations.

“We needed to run the football more (down the stretch) and (have) more commitment (to it) to run them out of their fronts. The point is when you can play with two safeties off the football and deep, that means you’re playing seven-man front football … and that’s basically what’s happened,” Carroll said. “We have always run the football and made them (bring) their safeties down … You can force teams to do that, or they can just get their butt kicked running the ball. That’s a big emphasis in my mind of how we want to control what the game is all about.”

Carroll said that in all his years in Seattle, the Seahawks almost never saw two-high safeties because of their ability to run the ball, but that it happened far too often in 2020 as the Seahawks kept looking for deep passes and explosive plays.

“As the season unfolded, it kind of played its way into the style of defenses we were playing and we didn’t adapt as well as I would have liked to,” Carroll said. “And that’s not what the fans want to hear because they want to hear ‘keep throwing the thing all over the yard.’ I don’t care about that. I want to win … We will do some things accordingly.”

Quick game never clicked

Running back Chris Carson ran for 77 yards on 16 carries against the Rams, indicating the run game was solid, but the pass game was off from the start.

Russell Wilson completed only 11 of his 27 passing attempts, and the Rams’ defensive front gave him and the offensive line trouble all game.

The run game is a good way to counter that pass rush, but another way is through quick passing. Carroll would have liked to have seen that aspect of Saturday’s loss play out differently.

“We needed to throw the ball quicker in the game, Michael, to get some efficiency and feel towards it,” Carroll told Bumpus. “We mixed it, we missed a couple chances on the quick game. We didn’t connect on a couple of the throws that we needed to. Russ was a little bit off … there were a few drops in the game that were crucial. All those plays were crucial because the game was so tight. I wish we would have got the ball out quicker more often in the game.”

Carroll said the offense still tried to take some shots down field that weren’t there but that the lack of a quick-passing game was a key part of why the Seahawks lost.

“All in all, we needed to get the ball completed – thrown and caught – quicker just to give us some rhythm because the running game was OK. We were running the ball fine and it was enough to have good balance to it and at the end of the game, we would have finished it with where we needed to go, but we never quite got there in the throwing game.”

Third downs a point of emphasis

The Seahawks’ offense was the best in franchise history in terms of points scored, and what makes that remarkable is Seattle was one of the worst teams in the NFL in terms of converting on third down.

Against the Rams, Seattle converted only two of 14 third down tries, and the Seahawks started the game 0 for 8. Carroll said struggling on third down was a recurring theme this year and played a big part in slow starts on offense, such as against the Rams in the playoffs.

“Of all of the things that needs focused on, it’s we need to convert on third down better,” Carroll said. “During the course of the season, we would have been an extraordinary team. We scored more points than any team in the history of our franchise without a really good solid (third down conversion percentage). We just needed to be in the middle of it in third down numbers and we would have been OK.”

Carroll said there are a number of things the Seahawks can do differently to improve on third downs, such as helping Wilson out with better play design and better blocking, as well as by running the ball better on early downs.

“If we don’t, we’ll be up against it (again),” Carroll said. “We’re still a winning football team with those numbers, but we need to be in the top seven or eight teams in the league … and if we can get to that, we will be better. That will be a big focus again but it seems more dramatic now than it did in the past years.”

A big part of why those third down numbers were so poor was because of the amount of times the Seahawks found themselves in third-and-long situations because of sacks, penalties or negative plays. Carroll said that near the end of the year, the Seahawks had the most situations of third-and-11 or more of any team in football.

“We were not a highly-penalized team, but it’s the negative plays because of sacks and the combination of penalties puts you in third-and-11-plus,” he said. ‘You don’t get there without screwing up. That’s a major part of the focus. It’s not that we can’t convert third-and-9. We can do that. We’ve just got to stay out of the bad ones … That’s constantly the issue that we’ve had and we take negative plays because we’ve been sacked a lot.”

Schotty likely back for 2021

With the offense struggling down the stretch and in the playoffs, some have called for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to be fired. Gallant asked Carroll whether Schottenheimer would be back in 2021.

“Yes. We scored more points than any team in the history of the franchise,” Carroll said while noting many of those points came in the first half of the season.

Carroll didn’t get deep into Schottenheimer’s job but did say part of the reason the scoring slowed down was because of the play of the defense.

“As we came on defensively, I adjusted us some to make sure we were really taking care of the football knowing we could win some games by the way we were playing defense, which you’ve seen us do that for 10 years around here,” Carroll said. “… I don’t care about the numbers or the stats, that’s not important. It’s fun to have numbers, but we’ve got to win games. Look at what happened at the end. We tightened things down and we won four games that we had to win to win a division and that’s what it took.”

In his Monday press conference after The Pete Carroll Show, Carroll told reporters he expected his coaching staff, including Schottenheimer and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., back in 2021.

Listen to The Pete Carroll Show at this link or in the player below.

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