The Seahawks were back to work on a "tell the truth Monday" one day after a thrilling victory over the NFC-South leading Atlanta Falcons, a game Seahawks coach Pete Carroll described as a "very big win. It had kind of a championship energy about it. It was an exciting matchup."
In addition to the latest injury updates, which you can find in this article, here are five things we learned from Carroll's Monday press conference:
1. The Seahawks will be "stronger for" third quarter issues.
The Seahawks defense struggled in the third quarter on Sunday in part because of some communication errors that led to coverage breakdowns, and the result was not only a pair of easy touchdowns for the Falcons, but a rather emotional Richard Sherman on the sideline. Carroll didn't necessarily like seeing his star cornerback react the way he did, but he was encouraged by both the response of his team on the sideline, but also on the field with how they shut the Falcons down in the fourth quarter.
"He got really emotional," Carroll said. "He reacted really strongly, and our guys brought him back in. He was being competitive and all of that, he didn't want bad things to happen, so he responded. He went over the top, but what was fantastic was the way our guys took care of him."
Carroll is OK with seeing his players react passionately when things go wrong because allowing players to express their emotions means "you get to find a way to help guys play the best they can possibly play, and find stuff that they can feed off of one another that allows them to win for a really long time. It allows them to find what their reaches are for them that they can approach. I don't see any risk in it at all, I'm fine operating like this. It gives us a chance to find out how good you can be as a group. Without it, you can still do good, but you often don't get familiar with that space and what that mentality is like, so it's not only hard to get there but it's hard to stay there. You have to get familiar with it and what it feels like to be totally immersed and committed and focused and maximizing, and then you've got to do it again and again and again and again and again.
"You have to understand it, so we're trying to learn how to do that. You've seen us, you've seen us when we can do it and when we can't over the years. It's what you approach in performance—how long can you stay on it? It takes the vulnerability, it takes the openness, it takes the experience and the ability to communicate through the moments to stay there. It's never going to be the same all the time. It was a great example yesterday, you saw we had a dip in our performance that really went across the board, and you saw guys working to get back to it. You saw the demonstration of what it took, the intensity and emotion that it took to get and stay connected so that we could go back out and do what we're capable of doing… There was some really cool stuff that happened, I think because we were able to get back on track again in a really short order."
Carroll called what transpired during the third quarter "a very unique situation," but he was happy with how everyone responded.
"There was a lot going on," he said. "It was a thrilling moment in the game trying to figure that out. The fact that it turned and the guys played so well and finished the game the way we like to finish was a beautiful thing. I think we're stronger for that, and it will help us somewhere down the road. I don't know where, I don't know when we're going to be in situations like that again, but at least we'll have been there before, so we'll draw from that."
2. The pass protection is "well ahead" of where it was at this time last year.
Heading into the bye, Carroll was excited about the way his team was protecting quarterback Russell Wilson through four games, and on Sunday the offensive line once again held up well in the passing game. Wilson was sacked only one time, and that came on a blitz by cornerback Desmond Trufant. Wilson has now been sacked 10 times this season, down from 22 sacks through five games in 2015.
"It looks really good," Carroll said. "It's much improved. The connection between Russell and the fits and feeling the pockets, and the nice job that Bradley Sowell did and Glow (Mark Glowinski) on the left side, they did a really nice job yesterday. I thought you could see Russell very comfortable and he took advantage of moving subtly to make space for himself and find receivers and make some plays. That's a good improvement for us. At this time last year we were way, way above in the sack totals, so we're well ahead. Hopefully we can keep getting better and really put together a good season of protecting the quarterback."
Carroll did acknowledge that rookie guard Germain Ifedi "had a hard time" at times on Sunday, but the first-round pick was playing in just his second game after missing the first three with an ankle injury, and the Seahawks remain very excited about his upside going forward.
"He's just getting going," Carroll said. "He did some great stuff, but he did have some plays that he would like to get back—just things that can get fixed fundamentally. There's just so many areas that he can improve upon and will. We love the good stuff and we just have to get through the other stuff. It's not a physical question, it's not a mental thing, it's just fundamentals and identification and stuff like that that we can really fix. He's going to be really good and he's made a difference, you can tell, just being out there."
3. DeShawn Shead is being tested often and "is doing really well."
With Sherman being the player that he is, most teams are going to be careful about throwing the ball near Seattle's All-Pro cornerback, and the result of that over the years has been that Seattle's other starting corner is targeted often.
And through five games, Carroll is really happy with what he has seen from DeShawn Shead in his first year as a full-time starter. Yes, the Falcons did complete some passes on Shead, but he also had three passes defensed, none bigger than the third-down breakup down the sideline on Atlanta's final possession, and he now leads the team with eight passes defensed.
"DeShawn played really well yesterday," Carroll said. "The plays that he wasn't able to make, he was close to and was strictly on it. The crossing route he was all over, another route they caught underneath him he was right on it. He's doing really well. I don't know how the numbers work out, but he is really holding up his end. I think he's playing great."
Asked if it takes a special mental makeup to be the cornerback opposite Sherman in Seattle's defense, Carroll said, "Heck yeah it does, because you know you're getting the ball thrown at you, and there have been a lot of guys who don't hold up. We've been very fortunate over the years that guys on that side have been able to play and do a nice job, because they're going to get a lot of activity, that's just kind of built in."
4. The Seahawks will pay close attention to Monday night football.
With the Arizona Cardinals playing on Monday night this week, the Seahawks get a rare chance to watch their next opponent live rather than just studying the tape after the fact. While the Seahawks will still do their usual film study, Carroll likes this chance to watch the game on TV as it unfolds.
"We like this opportunity," he said. "It's good focus for everybody. The players will all watch and they'll hear all the back stories and the buildup, so when we come back on Wednesday, we'll have a really good insight to start the week. It's a TV game, you don't get to study it really, but you still get to—there's a lot of information that will come at us, and that's just good for helping us get a jump on the week."
5. Dennis Byrd "affected so many people" with his inspirational life story.
Former New York Jets defensive linemen Dennis Byrd died in an automobile accident near Tulsa on Saturday, a tragedy that hit home for Carroll, who was the defensive coordinator of the Jets during Byrd's career. Byrd's playing days were cut short by a spinal cord injury in 1992 that left him paralyzed.
Byrd became an inspirational figure by defying the odds walking again less than a year after his injury, including walking onto the field as an honorary captain before the Jets opener the next season. The Jets retired his No. 90 during the 2012 season, and since 1993, the Dennis Byrd Award has been presented to the team's most inspirational player.
"That was a really terrible loss," Carroll said. "This was a marvelous kid, a marvelous family. He and his wife Angela had four kids. That was an extraordinary story. I was right there coaching Dennis when that happened, when he got hurt and broke his neck, and went through all of the emotional stuff that happened for this beautifully spirited kid. He was an amazing person. He affected so many people in his return and his overcoming the odds—he was never going to walk again, and then he runs out on the field and leads the team out the next year on opening day. He had been through so much, so for that family to have to go through another tragedy, I don't have any place to put it, but my heart goes out and I love the heck out of him. I hope to visit with Angela later in the next couple days."
Game action photos from the Seahawks' 26-24 win vs Falcons at CenturyLink Field.