The Seahawks returned home early Monday morning after a loss in Jacksonville that head coach Pete Carroll called, "a tough ballgame yesterday, a big battle… That was a really good, hard-fought game."
While the Seahawks were unhappy with the result, a 30-24 loss to the Jaguars, they did show some things Carroll liked, most notably the ability to battle back after being down 17 points in the fourth quarter, as well as some things he didn't like, especially the end-of-game extracurricular activities that marred an otherwise exciting finish to the game.
Here are Carroll's thoughts on those topics, as well as other things we learned from Monday's press conference:
1. Carroll "Really, really didn't like the way the game ended."
In the final minute of the game with the Jaguars trying to run out the clock, Michael Bennett and other defensive linemen made a last-ditch effort to get the ball back, going low to swipe at the ball as it was snapped. Jaguars linemen took exception to that, things escalated from there, and in the end Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Jefferson were both ejected from the game.
"I really, really don't like the way the game ended for us," Carroll said. "We never want to see football games look like that. The level we play at, that's not an excuse for going over the top like that. All these guys have heard that, they understand that. We don't ever want to look like that."
Carroll said he addressed the team about what happened, and expects his team to handle a similar situation better in the future.
"I don't think there's any question, everybody knew that," Carroll said. "Everybody was remorseful. We don't want to play like that, we don't want to look like that, ever."
Carroll said he also talked to Bennett about no longer going after the ball on kneel-down plays when the game is all but over.
Carroll confirmed that he had heard from the league and said no suspensions were coming from that incident.
On Jefferson, who had to be restrained after fans threw objects at him as he left the field, Carroll said, "That was wrong. He was wrong. I've talked to him about it. Professional athletes, (fans) can say whatever they want to say, that's kind of just what comes along with it. You have to be able to deal with it professionally, and he lost it. He feels terrible about it. That's not the kid he is. He just got emotionally overrun and he lost it. It's a tremendous learning opportunity for him and any other young guys."
2. The comeback fell short, but Carroll liked the resilience his team showed.
While this particular comeback fell short, the Seahawks' ability to go from down three scores in the fourth quarter to having a chance to win the game in the final minutes showed once again just how hard the Seahawks are to put away in any game.
"We felt like we were mounting one of those comebacks in the fourth quarter to write a real story, and unfortunately we couldn't finish it," Carroll said.
That ability to come back has been a trait of Carroll's teams in Seattle, particularly since Russell Wilson took over at quarterback in 2012. That has been a trait Wilson has shown since his first start as a rookie.
"The first game he played, remember against the Cardinals on the road, opening game?" Carroll said. "He had four shots from the 7-yard line to beat those guys, in a game that was really hard on him with the rush he had to put up with. First game, he almost won it coming from behind right at the end of the game. I was rooting for him so much because that could have been so crucial for him for his first time out and all of that, as well as just for us, but right from then—and he's got a history from his days of college as well."
3. The run game took another step forward, in no small part due to the growth of the offensive line.
Mike Davis was really good for a second straight game, rushing for 66 yards on 15 carries, and he deserves plenty of credit for the progress Seattle has shown in the run game, but the line also continues to come together, with the current group of Duane Brown, Luke Joeckel, Justin Britt, Ethan Pocic and Germain Ifedi starting a third straight game together.
"I thought we ran the ball pretty well, and felt the momentum of that," Carroll said. "It gave us the mix that we wanted, and we felt good about the running game throughout once we got rolling. Russell's carries contributed too, trying to hold the defense accountable for him. Mike ran really well, he looked creative again and looked tough and made some good things happen, and guys were blocking well up front."
On the line, Carroll added, "We're definitely making progress, there's no question. We're making progress. They're feeling better about it. We're still new, but it's going to be huge this weekend (against Los Angeles), it's another great front we're playing against. Guys are going to have to come together again, and we need to run the football and mix it up just like we want to, and they're going to have to come through again. We're getting better, and if we can keep this group intact, we have a chance to be the best we've been here in the last couple of games of the year.
"They're much more consistent than we had been. Fewer mistakes, fewer air balls where guys cleanly penetrate and get in the backfield. Duane is playing great football, he's really unbelievably solid for us. We haven't had anybody play like that, so solid for these games he has been with us. You can see Luke's getting his legs under him—remember, Luke had surgery in the middle of the year—so he's going to continue to feel better. So we have a chance to get better. The tight ends are doing a good job in their contributions too. They're doing well."
4. Jaguars QB Blake Bortles made it difficult for Seattle's pass rush to get going.
The Seahawks pass rush has been a huge factor of late, with the defense recording six sacks and, even more notably, 26 quarterback hits in their previous two games. But against the Jaguars, Seattle managed just one quarterback hit and no sacks. Some of that was the protection, but Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles also did a good job getting the ball out quickly in what was statistically one of the best games of his career.
"Disappointed," Carroll said when asked about the pass rush. "They really were on rhythm. I thought Bortles did a fine job. He was really on the money with his throws, their timing was good. There were a number of catches when we were all over guys and his accuracy was really on it. This was the best I've seen him. I thought he was just on it. I know he played well last week too, but he just did a really nice job. We really though we were going to rush them better, we thought we would be able to get to them, but it just didn't happen for us."
5. It's wait-and-see on injuries to a few starters.
The Seahawks finished the game without a pair of Pro-Bowl linebackers, with Bobby Wagner (hamstring) and K.J. Wright (concussion) both leaving the game in the third quarter. Davis also left the game early with a rib injury. Carroll said the status on all three players will likely be in question until late in the week.
On Wagner, Carroll said, "We're going to have to wait through the week. We'll go all the way to Saturday to see how he does, Saturday and Sunday all the way to gameday."
Wright showed positive signs Monday, but has to make it through the concussion protocol, meaning his status won't be known until the end of the week.
"K.J. had a good day today, had a good turn," Carroll said. "That's a positive."
On Davis, Carroll said, "He got hit in the ribs. He was moving around pretty good today. Felt OK. So we'll have to wait and see how it goes, how he can handle the week. So we'll see what happens. I thought he played a good game, he looked good again."
The Seahawks have a good chance of getting defensive end Dion Jordan back this week after a three-game absence due to a neck injury.
"He's going to practice Wednesday is what I've been told," Carroll said. "So that's a good sign."
The Seahawks fall short 30-24 against the Jaguars in Week 14 at EverBank Field.