As the Seahawks were beginning their final full practice on Friday in preparation for Sunday’s home opener, “Walk of Life” by the Dire Straits was blaring from the speakers in one corner of the field.
While it might be a bit too much to suggest the team in treading water in dire straits as it approaches the matchup with the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field, the significance of this game is not lost on coach Pete Carroll.
“There’s a real sense of urgency,” he conceded during the week.
That will happen when you have failed to score in six of the first eight quarters of a new season, including last week’s 24-0 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh. That also is the case when your next two opponents are the Atlanta Falcons at home next week and the New York Giants in the Meadowlands the week after that.
To put it another way: The time is right for the Seahawks to start getting it right.
“I’m really disappointed by it,” Carroll said when asked about the team’s 0-2 start. “I’m disappointed that we had to go through two games not playing the way we want to play. It is what it is. It’s already gone and dead, so we’re on to this week and looking forward to what we can do about this Sunday.”
The first thing the Seahawks must do is score, and the earlier the better. They also were shutout in the first half of their opener against the 49ers in San Francisco. So they’ve scored 17 points, while punting 15 times, in two games.
The idea behind the offense being installed by coordinator Darrell Bevell and assistant head coach/line coach Tom Cable is to set up the play-action passing game with the running game. But with the running game averaging 47.5 yards a game and 2.7 yards a carry, there just hasn’t been enough ground action to set up the passing game.
“I think the biggest thing is you’ve got to convert third downs and be able to stay on the field,” Bevell said. “We weren’t able to do that enough.”
That definitely was the case against the Steelers, when the Seahawks converted two of 12 third-down situations, compared to eight of 15 for the Steelers. Guess who controlled the ball for almost 39 minutes?
“Whether it’s the run of whether it’s the pass, there are little details that are missing that we’re trying to focus on in practice and get those little things down,” Bevell said.
From Bevell, to Cable, to the linemen, to the backs, everyone has a feeling that this running game is ready to breakout – which should allow the passing game to follow its lead.
Sunday, they’ll attempt to do it against a Cardinals defense that is attempting to play as aggressively and deceptively as the Steelers, because first-year coordinator Ray Horton came from Pittsburgh – not to mention the University of Washington and Tacoma’s Mount Tahoma High School.
The Cardinals are allowing an average of 466 yards per game, fourth highest in the league.
“It’s been difficult because you’re trying to implement his scheme and we don’t have an offseason to do that,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “There have been times in games when we have played very well and other times that we haven’t played well.”
The Seahawks’ defense, meanwhile, has been the best thing about the team during its 0-2 start – especially in the red zone, and at the goal line.
But after limiting the 49ers to a one-of-12 showing on third downs in the opener, the Seahawks simply couldn’t get off the field on third downs against the Steelers.
Now comes a Cardinals team with a new quarterback (Kevin Kolb), an improved but slightly injured running back (Beanie Wells) and a same-old-nemesis wide receiver (Larry Fitzgerald). It’s also an offense that can bite off yardage in chunks. They’ve already had a 25-yard run (by Wells) and Kolb TD passes of 73 (Fitzgerald), 70 (Early Doucet) and 48 (tight end Jeff King) yards.
“We have to stay on top of their bombs,” Carroll said when asked about the to-do list for the defense. “They’ve had a lot of long plays. Even through the preseason, they’ve scored from a long way out. We’ve got to make sure that that’s not part of the offense.”
Also on the list: Force turnovers, as the Seahawks and Steelers are the only teams in the league without one after two games; and get to Kolb, as the Seahawks have two sacks, which ties for the second fewest in the league.
“We’ve been stressing that with our players, showing them that there’s missed opportunities for us to get the ball,” coordinator Gus Bradley said. “I constantly tell them, ‘They’ll come in bunches. We just have to keep believing and we’ll get them.’ ”
Sunday would be a good time to start, in a game where the losing team definitely will find itself in dire straits.
“It’s going to be a difficult game for us, being a division game and all that,” Carroll said. “But we’re thrilled to be coming home and playing in front of our crowd – that’s something that’s very special to us and it’s paramount that we play well at home.”