Carroll: Seahawks geared up and ready for strong home finish
After setting a franchise record for the most road wins in a single season, the Seahawks return home for the final two games of the year with an awful lot on the line.
Seattle clinched a playoff berth last week thanks to a Los Angeles Rams loss after the Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers 30-24, and a win next week over the San Francisco 49ers would give Seattle the NFC West crown. Wins in both Week 16 and 17 would give Seattle not only the NFC West, but a chance at having a first-round playoff bye as the NFC’s No. 1 or 2 seed.
Before the NFC West title match against the 49ers, the Seahawks must first host the 4-9-1 Arizona Cardinals and 2019 No. 1 pick Kyler Murray, the rookie quarterback from Oklahoma.
As he always does on Fridays, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll joined 97.3 KIRO FM’s Dori Monson of the Dori Monson Show for the Pete Carroll Show to preview that weekend’s opponent and provide updates on other happenings with the team.
Getting healthy on defense
The Seattle defense is banged up to say the least.
The Seahawks were without four key defensive players – defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney (core) and Ziggy Ansah (shoulder), cornerback Shaquill Griffin (hamstring) and linebacker Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) – before the game. By the end, linebacker Bobby Wagner and safety Quandre Diggs were also out with ankle injuries.
The Panthers made a late comeback, but Seattle and their new-look defense held on.
“I think we finished in there with six rookies playing on defense or something like that,” Carroll said. “They held on. They got it done. It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done. It was great for them to be out there battling and trying to protect the win and all and that’s not exactly the way you want to go, but it’s good for us and it will help them, too.”
Clowney has missed two games in four weeks and Kendricks missed his second-straight game in Week 15. The Carolina game was Griffin’s first missed game this year and Ansah has been in and out of the lineup this year while being injured. Carroll thinks the defense is recovering.
“We’ll get a little healthier this week and we’ll get a couple guys back, I hope, and we’re going to take it all the way to game time and so even here on Friday we won’t be able to tell you guys that are going to play,” Carroll said. “I know guys are getting back and they’ve worked hard to do that.”
Diggs, Wagner and Clowney all have yet to practice this week. Griffin and Kendricks both practiced Wednesday in limited fashion, but not on Thursday. Ansah has been a full participant all year.
Most of those guys have a good shot at playing, but Diggs’ injury is the most concerning for the immediate future.
“I think Quandre’s the guy who has the hardest shot at getting back,” Carroll said. “He has a pretty good ankle sprain and he was not able to work at all yet, but we don’t have to close the door on that one until game time, but we’ll wait and see. So we’ll see and we’ll let you know when we know.”
This Sunday will also feature the return of tight end Luke Willson, who hasn’t played since Week 10 due to a hamstring injury.
Re-emergence of Lockett
Speaking of injuries, wide receiver Tyler Lockett looks to be fully recovered.
Lockett left Week 10’s matchup with the 49ers with a shin injury that caused him to stay for two nights in a Bay Area hospital. He hasn’t missed any action, but was clearly slowed down by the injury. Took top it off, he battled the flu a few weeks ago and lost weight.
He had a big game this past Sunday against the Panthers, catching eight passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. He also caught a crucial 3rd and 11 pass from Russell Wilson in the final drive in the fourth quarter.
“The whole return for those two guys was so special,” Carroll said of the connection between his quarterback and No. 1 receiver. “And we know now that Tyler was hurting. He was still playing but he was hurting. He wasn’t full tempo or full speed. As soon as he got back, he breaks out again catching a lot of balls, crucial catches, crucial timing and showed that exquisite chemistry that they have on that third down play at the end of the game to put the game out of reach. It was really terrific to get him back.”
Lockett and Wilson are very similar, Carroll said, which helps them connect on the field.
“You also take just the makeup of the two kids, both of them are just so savvy strong and just get the game,” he said. “They understand it, they’re both fantastic athletes who could play any sport and the lessons you learn in all sports, they come together to help you make the choices and decisions that they make in just a split instant of a moment to make the choice of which way to go, to turn, to throw it or to come back for the ball, all of the wonderful things they can do. So you put those two guys together and it’s just volatile, so it’s great to see.”
Lockett isn’t the biggest receiver, but is still among the league’s best. He’s nearing 1,000 yards on the season. Despite his lack of size, he makes plays in other ways.
“For not being a big guy, he is a physical player in that he has the ability to make all the right choices at the right time,” Carroll said. “The cuts that he makes, when to get down when he’s running with the football, the sense of when to burst and when to use his speed properly, just all those things it’s just marvelous to watch.”
Facing the Cardinals
The Cardinals are in last place in the NFC West, and the Seahawks won 27-10 when the two teams squared off in Week 4. It was Seattle’s only victory this season by more than eight points.
Carroll said the Cardinals are dangerous, especially offensively with Murray and running back Kenyan Drake leading the charge alongside veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona beat the Cleveland Browns 38-24 on Sunday in one of their best games of the season.
“They’re coming off their best game, probably, against Cleveland. They really played well and looked good in all phases and were out ahead the whole time,” Carroll said. “They ran for 220-something (yards) and threw for 200-plus and Kenyan Drake, he is the difference maker in their team since we played them … he’s really seemed to perk up their offense.”
Drake had four rushing touchdowns against the Browns and adds a lot of variety to the Arizona offense. The X-factory, however, is Murray, the former Heisman Trophy winner. Carroll said Murray and the offense look much different than they did in Week 4 in terms of personnel and scheme.
“The quarterback is seemingly running more also,” Carroll said. “He’s really talented and really fast … it’s a wide-open attack and a very dangerous passing game and running game.”
Seattle will not go on the road again this regular season. Their game with Carolina was the final road contest of the season, unless Seattle travels for a playoff game.
Seattle’s win over the Panthers gave them a franchise-best seventh road win.
“It is (special), particularly where we wound up playing,” Carroll said. “We had four or five games on the East Coast, so those are as challenging as you can get. We didn’t have to go to London this year, but they’re as challenging as you can get. And the most important thing about that is when if the playoffs if we have the opportunity to go on the road again, we will be as confident as anyone could possibly be going on the road, and that’s the whole idea.”
That being said, the Seahawks would rather get the No. 1 seed and stay in Seattle until traveling to Miami for the Super Bowl.
“The other side of it is I don’t care if we ever go on the road again,” Carroll said. “Let’s just stay home for a while. But even with that, I’ve said it to these guys a number of times that the last game if you do it right and you’re playing in the championship game in the Super Bowl, you’ve got to go on the road sometime, so let’s be as good as we can when that time comes.”
Carroll said when he first looked at the schedule, he thought the last two home games could be very important for seeding or NFC West crown purposes. Sure enough, it happened.
“Hopefully we can play really well this weekend and keep taking these next steps we need to take,” Carroll said. “I know it’s really exciting for our fans. It is for us, too. Thrilled to be on top of it all going into this last stretch and we’re all about finishing down here, Dori. If we can do this, we’ll really be in a great spot.”
Listen to Carroll at this link at the 21:10 mark.