The Seahawks were back in Seattle Monday following a dominant win in Houston, and most notably given the news across the league, they were back in town and healthy on a day in which teams around the league were dealing with COVID-19 issues.
More on that and other takeaways from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll's Monday press conference:
1. The Seahawks remain on high alert when it comes to COVID-19 protocols.
Carroll opened his press conference noting that, league-wide, there were 36 players put on the COVID-19 list on Monday, a big number that drives home the fact that this pandemic is far from over.
The Seahawks have been one of the best teams in the league when it comes to keeping players healthy—they didn't have a single player test positive last season, and this year only one player, Gerald Everett, has been out with COVID—and Carroll said his team has recently elevated its alertness to protocols with cases increasing.
"We just elevated all of our alerts on mask wearing and all of the stuff that we can do there," Carroll said. "We have been talking about it for a couple of days leading into it. I didn't have that news (of Monday's positive tests) when I met with the team today, so I didn't get to convey that to them, but I was on the topic anyway. Everybody is on high alert."
Carroll went on to talk about how one of the biggest challenges, not just for an NFL team but society as a whole, is avoiding complacency nearly two years into the pandemic.
"That's it," he said. "That's the whole issue worldwide. People get fatigued from it. We just can't—we can't let that happen. Even though everybody is human and you get worn down by the reminders. It's stressful when you have to be continually reminded and thoughtful of something that you wouldn't normally do. It wears on you, and we try to avoid it. We look for ways to get out of it. That's the conversation we hear all the time, that's the national clamor. It is about being diligent. Diligence comes from the constant reminders and the discipline that it takes to stick with it. I like to say I'm doing a good job of that. I've got to do better. I've got to do better. I've got to keep helping guys, and our staff guys that are tuned in have to help guys more so, so that they can just stay tuned into it. Here we go, we're in the last month of the season and we've got a shot to make it through. I don't know after today what's going to happen, but everybody has to continually be reminded.
Carroll also had a message for anyone who takes issue with being asked to take precautions in order to keep other safe: "Stop griping about it. Stop griping about being healthy and helping other people be healthy. I don't get that. That's beyond me. It's so far away from personal rights. I don't get it. We're just trying to stay healthy. We're going to try to keep doing a good job at it. Hopefully, we can get through just another day. Just one day at a time. It's constant as anything we've ever been around. We just have to do a good job. I've got to do better. I have to remind guys more."
2. The offense had its best game of the season.
The Seahawks offense was in a bit of a funk last month, starting with a shutout loss in Green Bay, then continuing in losses to Washington and Arizona in which the Seahawks scored a total of 28 points. Things improved in last week's win over the 49ers, and on Sunday Carroll saw what he considered to be his team's best offensive performance of the season, a game in which they set season highs for yards (453), yards-per-play average (79), rushing yards (193) and rushing yards per attempt (6.7).
"I don't think we have played better than we did yesterday, in terms of the mix and all of that," Carroll said. "Russ (Wilson) was 115.0 (passer rating) yesterday, so I thought with the way we were able to mix, everybody benefitted from that. The balance of the attack and the execution on third down made everybody better, but I thought Russ played as well as he has played all year, and he didn't have to carry the load and throw it 40 times to get that done. He was very, very effective and very resourceful with his movements and working with the line of scrimmage in pass protection. He found the spaces to make the big plays which I think is vintage Russell. I can't tell you that it's going to carry over into next week and we are going to ride on the same course, but we would like to be. I think that was a really clear illustration of how I visualize us to look, and we've done that a lot over the years. It hasn't been as obvious this year, so I think Rashaad (Penny) had a lot do with it. The guys up front obviously played well, but I think Rashaad's explosiveness in the offense really added to the whole thing. It really balanced out the mixture of run and pass."
3. Rashaad Penny earned another chance at being the lead back.
As Carroll noted in the above quote, a big part of Sunday's offensive performance was the play of running back Rashaad Penny, who a career-high 137 yards on 16 carries, including touchdown runs of 32 and 47 yards. And it wasn't just Penny's speed and big-play ability that made the difference, but also his physicality.
"That was my favorite part of his game," Carroll said. "It wasn't the big runs, those are beautiful plays, but it was the two or three times when he saw the situation and attacked it. He's a big, fast kid, he's 230 something pounds as a running back and with his speed and quickness, it makes him a more difficult guy to deal with. I thought he got behind his pads well. Honestly, I would tell you that I think Adrian (Peterson) had an influence on him. He said something about him I guess, but I think he took a new step forward. I'm really excited for him, and I'm really excited for us to have that. That was one game, we have to do that again, but that makes him very difficult. He's shown signs of that kind of play at times, but not with the consistency that we saw yesterday. I know he's pumped up about it."
With his big game, Penny earned a chance to once again be the lead back when the Seahawks play the Rams next weekend, Carroll said.
"I think he deserves the shot to show that, to start it out," Carroll said. "We'll still rotate to keep guys fresh, but we're going to give him a shot again to come right on back and see if we can keep going."
4. The Seahawks are "fired up" about rookie tackle Jake Curhan's first start.
With Brandon Shell out due to a shoulder injury, Jake Curhan made his first career start, and the Seahawks liked what they saw from the undrafted rookie. Curhan played extensively the week before, though that was at left guard in place of an injured Kyle Fuller, and not his natural position, and a move back to tackle helped him play better, Carroll noted.
"Jake has been really impressive throughout because he really kind of gets the game," Carroll said. "He's really smart, really bright, really mindful of having a plan on how to work his blocks and fit the assignments that he has. He's just a good, savvy football player. He's a really big dude too, a big, thick guy that you can't knock around. He has really good hands and is much more of a tackle than he is a guard in our assessment, and he would say the same thing. He played a lot better at this spot than when we moved him inside by emergency status in the past. He did a really good job, he had a couple of plays where guys ran around him, but all in all, he came through and everybody is really fired up for him."
5. Ryan Neal did well in place of Jamal Adams.
While Curhan was new to filling in for an injured starter, that role was familiar for Ryan Neal who started at strong safety in place of Jamal Adams, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 13. Neal started four games in place of Adams last season, but Sunday was his first start this year, and Carroll liked what he saw from Neal, who had seven tackles, including one for a loss. If there was any negative, it was that he and Quandre Diggs collided while both going for an interception late in the game, leading to a funny scene in which Neal demonstratively but playfully let Diggs know he was upset with his teammate. Even that play, however, was a net positive for the Seahawks, as it came on a deep pass on fourth down, meaning an interception would have resulted in worse field position unless there were a big return.
"Ryan played really well," Carroll said. "He did really well. He picked his spots on opportunities to be aggressive. Very sound in all of his play. I thought he was close to error free for the game, except for he and Diggs missing their chance to get a pick. You can get shared sacks, but you can't get shared interceptions. I don't know what happened on that one floater ball. He played really well, and that's no surprise. Everything he's done, he's done well. We're really, obviously, fortunate that he could do that."