Pete Carroll met with the media at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Monday, one day after his team's 31-24 divisional round playoff loss to the Panthers in Carolina that left the Seahawks disappointed, but optimistic about their future.
Here's five things we learned from the Seattle head coach's season-ending press conference:
1. How The Seahawks Got Down 14-0 So Quickly at Carolina
With less than five minutes gone in Sunday's game against the Panthers, the Seahawks found themselves facing a 14-0 deficit. Carolina's two early first-quarter scores were the direct result of the Seahawks surrendering two highly uncharacteristic plays.
Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart broke loose for 59 yards on the first play of the game to set up the Panthers' first touchdown, and on Seattle's ensuing possession, a Russell Wilson interception was returned for a score by Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. Having now watched Sunday's film, Carroll offered his assessment of what went wrong on the explosive play and turnover that proved costly for Seattle.
"Unfortunately, we didn't read the play well," Carroll said of Stewart's run. "Just a new little wrinkle that they put in. We didn't read the play well at the linebacker spot and Earl [Thomas] came up to make the tackle for a seven or eight yard gain, like we normally do, and he slipped and fell and wasn't able to make the play. That's a normal, nice play for them and then you tackle them and you go on. We were so good at that and so consistent at that that it really jumps out at you when that happens. I said there was one explosive run in the game and that was it. From that point on, they rushed for 80 yards for a whole day of 40 runs, there's 40 other runs to get 80 yards.
"… On the interception, we were rushed and Russ, he got a flash of Marshawn checking down and he tried to get rid of the football and it just didn't hit right, the decision didn't work out and it goes right to Kuechly for a touchdown. So that's about as huge a turnaround, bang-bang, that you could put up and we did it. It didn't wreck us for the day, it just made it really difficult, and they're too good for us to get back in it."
2. Jimmy Graham's Rehab is Going "Really Good"
Three-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham tore his patellar tendon in the Seahawks' Week 12 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He underwent season-ending surgery in early December and has been rehabbing ever since, a process Carroll said has been going "really good."
"He's thrilled to be off the crutches and he's getting going," Carroll said. "He's very dedicated to the process of it. He's doing some really cool innovative things and stuff. He's doing all of the stuff that you could possibly do to get well. He's back in Florida right now doing some things. He's such a great athlete, he's dedicated to it, it matters to the nth degree to him that he does it well and properly. I think he's going to take advantage of all of that to give us a real shot to get him back."
Carroll has said he's “very optimistic” that Graham will be ready for 2016, but on Monday he wasn't yet able to provide a specific timetable for the tight end's return.
"Not specifically," Carroll said. "I can't give you the months and stuff for that right now."
3. What Marshawn Lynch's Future Holds
Marshawn Lynch saw his first snaps for Seattle in Sunday's loss to the Panthers since undergoing abdominal surgery in late November. The Seahawks running back had missed eight straight games to injury and in his first game back didn't receive many chances to tote the football as Seattle was forced to switch to a pass-heavy attack down 31-0 at the half.
"I don't think he's 100 percent at this time, but he certainly made it back where he could play and he contributed," Carroll said of how Lynch made it out of Sunday's game that saw him carry six times for 20 yards and add 15 yards on two catches. "He had some nice plays in the game, he just didn't get a lot of opportunities."
Lynch signed a two-year extension with the Seahawks last March after contemplating retirement following the team's 2014 season. Counting Sunday's playoff game at Carolina, Lynch played in eight games for Seattle in 2015, carrying 117 times for 437 yards and three touchdowns after racking up 1,200-plus yards and double-digit touchdowns over each of the Seahawks' previous four seasons. Carroll was asked how Lynch fits into Seattle's offense moving forward after missing roughly half the season to injury.
"We'll figure it out," Carroll said. "It depends on how he comes back and how he works at it and all that kind of stuff. He had a difficult year physically. He's never been having to recover from an injury like that. He's never had to deal with that kind of process. He made it back, to his credit he certainly worked hard to get back and he made it back to where he could play, it just was a terrible opportunity for him to have a chance to have an impact in the game.
4. The Team is "Pretty Healthy" Heading into the Offseason
With the 2015 season coming to a close, Seahawks players took exit physicals on top of clearing out their lockers on Monday. Carroll noted he hadn't yet met with team doctors to hear the results of those physicals, but said Seattle will head into the offseason "pretty healthy."
"We feel pretty fortunate that we're pretty healthy going into the offseason and there's a lot of guys that don't have to have surgeries that they'll have to work through and all of that," said Carroll. "So we'll know more about that in the next couple days and see how the exit physicals turned out."
Hundreds of fans welcomed home the Seahawks after Sunday's divisional round playoff loss to the Panthers in Carolina.
5. Seattle Has a "Special Following"
On the way home from Sunday's loss at Carolina, the Seahawks were greeted by hundreds of fans who had lined the roadway out of Sea-Tac airport and again outside of the team's headquarters in Renton. Carroll commented on the unique relationship his team has enjoyed with the 12s.
"It was really obvious last night," Carroll said. "They weren't just out there to see the buses come in. They went out there to pay tribute to the team that they love and in just classic 12 fashion. It was big time. A big time demonstration from the airport all the way back to where we got back to the facility here. Like we've said, we have a great connection with our fans and it's a very deep connection. They were saying thank you for the season is really kind of what the main theme was and the players and the coaches wanted to give it right back to them, and we felt bad that we weren't able to by getting the win. But it was just another reminder of that we have such a special following and it's very unique and the relationship is very deep."