The Seahawks kicked off a shortened week ahead of Saturday's Wild Card playoff game against the Detroit Lions. As usual, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll went on 710 ESPN Seattle Monday morning to talk about his team's win at San Francisco, the health of his team and more.
Fortunately the Seahawks came out of the game with only one new injury, long snapper Nolan Frese's ankle injury that Carroll described as "a terribly sprained ankle." Carroll also noted that the injury contributed to Frese snapping the ball over punter Jon Ryan's head for a safety.
"He couldn't run at all, so he was just clomping around on a totally casted foot to get through the game," Carroll said. "So the fact that he had a snap that got away from him, a lot of guys would not have finished the game, so I give him credit for really just battling through it and giving us the best he could."
Carroll confirmed the injury is a high-ankle sprain, but said Frese's status for this week is not yet known.
In other injury news, Carroll said rookie running back C.J. Prosise, who has missed the last six games with a fractured scapula is "getting close now," though it sounds like a return this week is not in the cards.
"He's got a scan tomorrow to see where he is, and he might be a couple weeks away from playing if we can stay alive," Carroll said.
In addition to that injury news, here are five takeaways from Carroll's appearance on the Brock and Salk Show:
1. The pass protection "was excellent" against the 49ers.
A week after Russell Wilson was sacked six times, matching a season high, the Seahawks pass protection was considerably better against the 49ers. Seattle allowed only two sacks, and both of those were relatively fluky plays. On the first sack, Wilson went down after having his foot stepped on by a lineman as the play began, and on the second sack, Trevone Boykin had the ball slip out of his hand while attempting a pass and he was touched down for a sack after falling on the loose ball.
"We did some good things," Carroll said. "The protection was excellent yesterday. There were two errors that we made, but we protected throughout. I was really fired up about that. The guys really fit it together well, and Russ had good space, good time, that was a real clear improvement. That was good to see that happen.
"We took off from where we were in the second half last week. Not that the second half was all that we've done well, but that was a good turnaround for the guys. They got kind of knocked around a little bit in the first half of that game, then came back and played really, really good football. We wanted to pick up where we left off, I thought we did."
2. The Seahawks "didn't run the ball quite as well as we'd have liked to," but Alex Collins "really lit it up" in the second half.
While the pass protection was on point, giving Wilson time to throw for 258 yards, including completions of 42, 41 and 36 yards, the running game struggled to get going, particularly in the first half when Seattle gained just 20 yards on nine carries.
"We didn't run the ball quite as well as we'd have liked to early in the game, but we found some running game, enough to keep it going, enough to find the rhythm," Carroll said. "So I think that (the offensive line) really grew from seeing that they could capture what they're capable of doing. I thought that they played really solid yesterday."
Asked more about the running game, Carroll made it clear that the Seahawks aren't going to give up on that part of their offense, even if it has struggled a bit of late.
"We just keep going, we'll keep running," Carroll said. "We have to keep running to make sure we have the mix that we want. That's our style of play. It doesn't always matter how you run the ball early in the game, it's more important how you finish running the ball so you can finish the game just like we needed to do. But we're not pleased with it. It's not anywhere near where we want it to be. We're still working at it and we're still committed to keeping the formula that allows Russell to be effective, which is so important. He needs his space, he needs the play-actions for the big plays, he needs to get the nakeds out on the perimeter and all that stuff to keep the passing game alive and explosive."
And it wasn't all bad news for the running game. While the final numbers—87 yards on 25 carries—weren't overly impressive, it was encouraging that rookie running back Alex Collins gained 55 yards on seven second-half carries, his second straight strong performance in relief of Thomas Rawls.
"Alex really lit it up again yesterday," Carroll said. "It's great to see him coming to life like that. We need him desperately, we need the 1-2 punch. He was the beneficiary of a couple of really good schemes up front that hit, and he took full advantage of it. He seems to bring some juice. You can feel the fire in him, he's really fired up to be part of it. It's a very big positive for him."
Asked why Collins has played better of late, Carroll pointed to Collins gaining confidence as the season has gone on, as well as the fact that Collins has lost more than 10 pounds since arriving in Seattle at about 225 pounds.
3. "We've got all we need to get this done."
This has been an interesting season for the Seahawks, but for all the ups and downs, they are still NFC West champs and, for the fifth straight year, they won 10 or more games.
So when Carroll was asked about the state of his team heading into the playoffs, it's no surprise that the head coach has a positive view of how things stand: "I think we've got great leadership, we've got a lot of young guys, and we're just bringing them with us. It's a great challenge, it's a great exercise in putting it together. The leaders are holding the line to continue to bring guys with us. We don't have to teach lessons so much now when it happens, we need to bring them with us, because they've played 20 games now. They've been with us a long time, so it's just the process of molding it together and seeing how far we can take it.
"We've got all we need to get this done, but we've got to go one game at a time. That's the great challenge we talked about on Saturday night—can you stay to the task at hand and not be wavered by all the things that we hear, all the things that will be posted and all of that? We've just got to stay in house and keep battling and put a win together. It's 1-0 this week."
4. The Seahawks are counting on young players to step up.
In terms of average age of the roster, the Seahawks have been one of the youngest teams in the league for most of Carroll and John Schneider's tenure in Seattle, but one difference Carroll has noticed this year is the number of young players his team is counting on in big roles. That's most evident on the offensive line, where two rookies, Germain Ifedi and George Fant, are starting, while another starter, Mark Glowinski, is in his first year as a starter, and the two most experienced linemen, Justin Britt and Garry Gilliam, are only in their third seasons. The Seahawks have also counted on big contributions from rookies like Jarran Reed, who is a big part of the defensive line rotation, and running backs Prosise and Collins.
"We might be counting on more guys," Carroll said. "Numbers wise… we're about the same as last year, but I think we're counting on some guys a little more. That's a good thing, it's going to be great for the future. I'm hoping that future is going to come right now. We feel like we're going to play good football, we're not worried about that part at all."
Asked to assess this year's rookie class, Carroll said, "It's a great class that couldn't stay healthy, unfortunately. It could have been a phenomenal contribution that they could have made had they stayed healthy throughout. C.J. is the one who is so obviously a factor, we miss the heck out of him."
5. Carroll loved the way young players like Trevone Boykin finished the game.
When the Seahawks realized Atlanta was on its way to clinching the No. 2 seed Sunday, Carroll made the decision to pull some starters, an unfamiliar feeling for a coach so committed to competition.
"I hated the situation we were in, because it was so out of character, but to see the guys come through and make their plays was really good," he said. "…It's uncomfortable, it's just not the way we set everything up. We're going for everything. We go as long as we can forever, so it just didn't feel right. But we got through it, won the game, had fun, saw some young guys play and do some good things, and on we go."
As Carroll notes, the plus side of pulling starters like Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Michael Bennett, Jimmy Graham and others was the chance to see young players step up in what turned into a close finish.
"I loved the way we finished the game, all the pups were in there doing stuff and making plays, it worked out great," Carroll said.
Carroll noted that Boykin, Seattle's backup quarterback, struggled a bit on his first series, but played well later as the offense was able to pick up a couple of key first downs to run out the clock: "You saw right off the bat the playmaking. He's got some magic in him and he showed that in that last sequence."
Action photos from Seahawks vs 49ers during Week 17 at Levi's Stadium.