Carroll explains why ‘there’s a distance’ between Seahawks, 49ers
For two quarters on Saturday, the Seahawks didn’t just match the NFC West champion 49ers in their NFC Wild Card playoff matchup. The Seahawks, by a one-point margin, actually outplayed San Francisco.
The next two quarters? Well, that played out very differently.
The Seahawks took advantage of a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty by 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward inside the final 10 seconds of the first half, with kicker Jason Myers nailing a 56-yard field goal as time expired to give Seattle a 17-16 lead at halftime.
The 49ers responded in a big way, though, scoring the next 25 points of the game on their way to a 41-23 win, with their defense holding Seattle to a single touchdown in garbage time in the second half.
As it turned out, the Seahawks did almost all of their damage in the game during a second quarter where they outscored the Niners 17-6, with the other three quarters serving as a prime example why San Francisco had the top defense in the NFL this season.
That all brings up a question that Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk had to ask the Seahawks head coach Monday morning during the final Pete Carroll Show of the season: How far are the Seahawks away from the 49ers talent-wise?
“There’s a distance here,” Carroll answered. “It’s really because of what they got up front. Their front seven is really, really well equipped.”
When Carroll looks over the 49ers’ dominant defense, he sees multiple game-changing players.
“Their linebackers have been there, like, four years together, the same three guys playing,” he said. “(Safety Talanoa) Hufanga came in, just jumped right into it and became an excellent factor out of nowhere. He fits in like he’s been there for his whole career. But the guys up front really make a difference. I mean, (defensive lineman Arik) Armstead is unbelievably talented, he’s a problem every snap. (Defensive lineman Nick) Bosa is a problem every snap, and we breathe a sigh of relief when he has to take a break, you know, so we can go ahead and get after it. Those guys make enough stuff happen and they demand so much focus in the game plan and the approach because they’re going to do something to you if you don’t. That’s a big difference than what we what we have.”
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Salk’s next question: Who on the Seahawks’ defense could be considered a problem on every snap for another team?
Carroll’s answer further emphasized where he thinks Seattle needs to improve to catch up to the Niners.
“You know, I think (linebacker) Jordyn Brooks is one of those guys,” Carroll said. “I think Diggsy (safety Quandre Diggs) is one of those guys on the back end. (Cornerback) Tariq (Woolen) is becoming that – he could be a factor. The problem is, to really be effective it needs to be up front. You need to have those guys that can really do stuff, they cause the problem – run and pass – every snap. You gotta run the other way, you gotta look out, you gotta cut them off.
“Those are the factors. It’s like the factor that (Rams defensive tackle) Aaron Donald brings. That factor overwhelms the game plan and becomes a distraction to the rest of it if you can’t handle those guys. That’s where you see the teams that really have the big time potential defensively. They’ve got a couple guys, or at least one guy, that you really have to contend with.”
If you want to read between the lines of Carroll’s comments, it’s worth noting that the Seahawks have the No. 5 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, and there are multiple defensive linemen expected to be taken early in the first round. While Carroll indicated elsewhere during Monday’s conversation that he wasn’t going to tip Seattle’s hand ahead of the draft – “The most important thing is that we are the ones that know what we’re doing and nobody else knows,” he said – at this point it would seem more surprising if the Seahawks drafted anything other than a defensive lineman at No. 5.
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