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Defensive Improvements & Other Things We Learned From Pete Carroll's Friday Press Conference

News and notes from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s Friday press conference.

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Seahawks coach Pete Carroll met with the media Friday to discuss his team's Week 15 loss to the 49ers. In addition to updates on Tyler Lockett’s hand and other injuries, here are five things we learned from Carroll's Friday press conference:

1. The defense did a lot of things better, but "a couple of easy ones" for the 49ers made the difference.

For a defense that had been struggling of late, there were a lot of encouraging signs that the Seahawks are getting back on track on that side of the ball. The 49ers went three-and-out on their opening possession, and they had five possessions in the game that ended with a punt after gaining zero or one first downs. And for the better part of four quarters, the run defense was markedly better despite facing one of the league's best rushing attacks.

The problem, however, was that the plays that didn't go well for the Seahawks defense were very significant plays. The 49ers gained 110 yards on just three completions to wide-open tight ends, two of those touchdown passes to George Kittle. They also closed out the game with a 55-yard run that skewed the stats on what would have otherwise been a good day against the run.

"We played a lot better on defense against a team that we had a lot of respect for their running ability," Carroll said. "We felt like we had a pretty good command of that. They had a couple of plays, but they were going to have some. There were just some misplayed moments in there that it was all that it took in this game. This game, if this was the game that we're going to win, it was probably going to be 13-10 or something like that. We needed to keep the score like that, but unfortunately, they had a couple of easy ones."

2. Carroll is excited to see how those defensive improvements carry over to the final three games of the regular season.

For the Seahawks to improve upon their 7-7 record and make the playoffs, they're going to have to finish strong, and to do that they'll likely need the defense to keep trending in a positive direction. Carroll is hopeful he'll see the defense do just that, much like it was able to turn things around earlier this season before the more recent struggles appeared.

"I think we do have a chance in these last three games here of the regular season to make a little bit of a move," Carroll said. "We had a wave in the middle of the year where we really improved and then we kind of dipped. The consistency has not been there, but the things that we did and the way we play showed us that we are more on track than we have been. It's exciting for me to think we can make another push here to finish the season."

3. Tariq Woolen is "sick about" mistake that led to George Kittle's second touchdown.

Tariq Woolen has been one of the league's best cornerbacks this season and is a strong contender for NFL Rookie of the Year honors, but even with six interceptions and a lot of other impressive plays, it isn't always going to be perfect for the rookie out of UTSA. On Thursday, Woolen played a coverage wrong on Kittle's 54-yard touchdown, staying with a receiver in the middle of the field when he should have followed Kittle deep, and the result was a 54-yard score after Kittle was able to break a couple of tackles.

"He was supposed to be back there playing zone and he chased a receiver down in the inside," Carroll said. "It was a gimme, it was too easy. In a game like that, it was too easy. He is sick about it. I walked out with him last night and he was disappointed because it's such an easy play to make. They don't even throw the ball if he does what we normally do. That's what happened."

While Carroll nor Woolen is happy about the mistake, Carroll did like the way it affected the rookie after the game because it showed how much he cares, and he expects it to be a learning moment for Woolen.

"It's interesting the responsibility that he feels and how serious he took it," Carroll said. "He feels like he let guys down and stuff, he made an error that cost us, but this is a moment for him. Hopefully, he just continues to accept the responsibility that he has. He has a big responsibility very quickly. He even mentioned how he never has felt like this before. He has such a big part, everybody is counting on him, and he wants to come through. He took it really the right way and he will do everything in his power to not let it happen again. When you play corner, it's a tough world out there, stuff happens. He will get a couple of days, he will bounce back, and all of that, we are counting on that. I think this was a moment that you learn from, and he will get better because of it."

4. Carroll is disappointed the Seahawks haven't run the ball better of late.

While the return of Kenneth Walker III gave the offense a little bit of a spark—the rookie running back had 79 total yards, including a 33-yard catch that helped set up a touchdown—it was for the most part another tough game for Seattle's running game, which totaled 70 yards on 14 carries, 18 of which came on one Geno Smith scramble. It was Seattle's fifth consecutive game with 90 or fewer rushing yards after gaining 136 or more in five of their previous six games.

"I'm disappointed in having to talk about that too," Carroll said. "It just hasn't happened for us. We haven't been able to find the rhythm of it, and we've lost at the line of scrimmage at times in games, and probably got knocked off course in the plan, and how we like to go with it. We just need to stay with it more. Shane (Waldron) and I keep talking about it. We have to stay with it and just keep pounding away and the plays will happen. Threes and fours need to be okay because you know you are going to bust something. In particular with Ken, the ball is going to break out and you just have to keep pounding until it happens.

"That's the style we are trying to get to, and we are not there. It effects the whole game to me."

5. Geno had a strong second half.

While the final numbers aren't all that impressive for Geno Smith, Seattle's quarterback put together a pretty impressive second half, especially when considering the quality of defense he was facing, and one that knew the Seahawks had to throw after falling behind 21-3 on the opening drive of the third quarter. After completing 15 of 23 attempts for 86 yards in the first half, Smith was 16 for 21 for 152 yards and a touchdown in the second half, good for a 111.6 rating in the half.

"I think it showed a lot," Carroll said of Smiths' second-half play against the league's top defense. "I think everybody fit together a little bit differently in the second half as we get going. There wasn't enough of it, but you can tell we were more confident, and we were clicking and got things going. They played well to really minimize your down the field stuff and as we are playing off and soft with the part of their style, we had to keep sticking with the efficiency. So, we had to keep the ball moving quick. When we didn't, they caused problems and created some rush. I think Geno felt comfortable as the game went on. He felt comfortable in the setting and all of that and gave us a chance."

Check out some of the best action shots from Week 15 vs. the San Francisco 49ers at Lumen Field on December 15, 2022. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery.

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