Welcome to another edition of #HawksMailbag here on Seahawks.com, our weekly feature where we answer your Twitter questions about the club.
With a chance to clinch the division and a first-round playoff bye with a win in Week 14, the Seahawks endured a 19-17 defeat at the hands (and feet) of the San Francisco 49ers. Late-game decisions, penalties, quarterback
@Seahawks After using your time outs & SF made a 1st down, why not let SF score & then have around 2 minutes instead 31 seconds.— Derek Dahl (@Dgdahl) December 9, 2013
The thought did cross head coach Pete Carroll's mind.
If the Seahawks let the 49ers score a touchdown late in the game as you suggest, Seattle would have been down by either five or seven points (assuming San Francisco would go for the two-point conversion) with a little more than two minutes to play. Carroll expressed complete confidence in quarterback Russell Wilson's ability to lead the offense down the field for the go-ahead or game-tying touchdown in that position, but he opted to play the 49ers straight up on defense with the hope of forcing a turnover or blocking the field goal.
"We do know that’s an alternative," Carroll said during his Monday press conference. "I remember it’s happened before. People have tried it. I was clear about it and decided to go and see if we can knock the ball down. See if we can get them out of here and just to stay with the principles of doing it on defense."
It's an interesting situation with a lot of variables, and one Carroll said he'll consider moving forward.
"It is one of the alternatives," Carroll summed. "So it’s a possibility."
It's no secret that penalties have been an ongoing issue for the Seahawks, who have racked up 104 flags for 966 yards through Week 14. That number ranks second-most in the NFL, trailing only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (106 infractions for 1,000 yards). The club has found ways to overcome those setbacks en route to a League-high 11 wins, but on Sunday it was apparent the Seahawks had dug themselves into a hole. And against a good 49ers defense on the road, they couldn't dig themselves out.
"We didn’t overcome them, so those drives got wasted," Carroll said the day after the game. "All three of those penalties were on really successful plays, all first down plays. So that was a big factor."
It's a factor that's unlikely to magically disappear and one that will take discipline to resolve. Sunday's game serves as a great learning opportunity for Carroll and his club to make the necessary adjustments.
Head coach Pete Carroll saw things a little bit differently, noting quarterback Russell Wilson handled his reads in the run game just right, but the option to use his legs wasn't there. Carroll credited the 49ers for defending the situation well, as San Francisco outside linebackers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks were sitting on the edges waiting for Wilson.
"They had him accounted for at all times," Carroll said on his day-after-the-game conversation with 710 ESPN Seattle's Brock and Danny.
Pass protection also held up for most of the afternoon and we know Wilson likes to throw before he'll look to run. Wilson did take two sacks, but he completed 60 percent of his passes for 199 yards and a touchdown. He finished 8-of-11 for 144 yards and a score with a 145.1 rating in the first half alone.
"We picked guys up well and gave him a chance to throw the football," Carroll said of the lack of designed runs for Wilson. "They looked to be concentrating on him in the running game to keep him from getting the football, so the ball got handed off a lot. We were looking for opportunities, but it just wasn’t there and we handled it right and read it right throughout the game."
#HawksMailbag what adjustments need to be made in the following weeks with KJ Wright out?— Chris Blackstone (@Chrisdarkrock) December 9, 2013
You may know by now that head coach Pete Carroll preaches the "next man up" mentality. It's something we've seen multiple times this season, with the most recent example coming from cornerbacks
Losing Wright hurts because of the versatility he provided at the defense's second level. Wright is capable of playing all three linebacker spots - weak-side, strong-side and in the middle - and he's capable of playing them all at a high level. Smith, Wagner, and Irvin have put together solid seasons of their own, but the coaching staff displayed a unique confidence in Wright's capability to move around when needed. That's what the Seahawks will miss most in adjusting to life without Wright.
I see you sneaking two questions in there, Dennis. Bold move. I'm feeling extra-motivated today, so I'll do my best to answer both.
The Seahawks have already clinched a playoff spot, so that chance is secure.
Clinching the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs are still on the table. If the Seahawks win two of their final three regular season games, they'll accomplish both. A Seahawks win in Week 15 against the New York Giants coupled with a loss or tie by the 49ers and a loss by the New Orleans Saints would also accomplish both.
The Seahawks can clinch the division and a first-round bye with a win on Sunday against the Giants and a 49ers loss or tie. A tie with the Giants and loss by the Niners would also accomplish the same thing.
The scenarios are plentiful, and outlined fairly well on NFL.com's playoff picture page. Check it out.
As for Part II of your question, center
Unger was replaced by fourth-year pro