The Seahawks fell to the Bears Sunday, dropping their record to 5-10, and with that loss the Seahawks also officially were eliminated from postseason contention. That puts the Seahawks in an unfamiliar position, closing out the season with games that have no meaning from and playoff standpoint. Since 2012, the Seahawks have only missed the playoffs once, and even in that 2017 season, they were still in it heading into Week 17. That presents a different challenge for Pete Carroll and his coaching staff, who now have to make sure the team still prepares the way it should even if there's no playoff berth to chase.
More on that and other things we learned from Carroll's Monday press conference:
1. Keeping the focus.
While the postseason is no longer a goal, Carroll fully expects to see his team prepare this week just as it would for any other game. A big part of Carroll's philosophy is focused on treating every game the same, regardless of the opponent or the situation, and he doesn't want to see that change this week as the Seahawks prepare for the Lions.
"We're going do everything to keep our focus on playing this week, just do one week at a time and just keep rolling," he said. "Our approach has always been set up for whatever the circumstances bring, and in this regard it's no different. So we're going go after it and call on our guys to be in it and study and bust their tails to get really good at that game plan and put our best foot forward for this ballgame."
2. Carroll knows its on him to set the tone.
While it's one thing to say the team should take this week's game as seriously as any other, Carroll also understands that human nature might make it harder for some players to get up for this week's game like they might for another game where the circumstances different, which is why Carroll knows it's his job to set the tone this week.
"Absolutely, whether we're winning them all or we aren't, I do feel like that's my responsibility; that's the job that I'm holding," he said. "If I can't keep my act together, how can I expect somebody else to? I think it's really important that I'm really disciplined about that, so I've got a whole way that I do it and a conversation that keeps me on track. And our players know, they can count on me. They know where I'm coming from. They may not agree with it, but they're, they're going along, and they have always been there for us and responded well. And I'll tell you too that I'm listening to players. I always talk to guys, I always want to hear, I want to watch them and see how they respond and how they react. I'm trying to make sure that the message is clear and fresh and clean and on point at all times. This isn't like some old story. I'm telling the story on a day-to-day basis based on the people that we're dealing with situations that we're faced with in trying to make the most sense that makes it most clear for us to be at our best. That's an ongoing competitive challenge that I take on, and that's what I think my job is all about
3. More players expected back from COVID-19 list.
The Seahawks have seen several players return from the COVID-19 list in recent days, including receiver Tyler Lockett, defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr. and running backs Alex Collins and Travis Homer. And while those players were able get back due to test results, more players will return this week when their 10-day window is up if they haven't tested out before then.
Cornerback D.J. Reed and tackle Brandon Shell both went on the COVID list last Sunday, meaning they can return Wednesday regardless of what happens testing wise between now and then, while defensive tackle Bryan Mone's 10 days are up Thursday.
"On Day 10, they basically can come back," Carroll said. "We'll have a handful of guys coming back to us this week. There will be a number of guys on Wednesday, and a couple guys will take a little longer than that, but we'll get a number of guys back. That will be great as long as we don't lose guys in the meantime. We'll get a pretty good boost when these guys return."
4. Update on Adrian Peterson.
Veteran running back Adrian Peterson was elevated off the practice squad only a few days after signing with Seattle, and he started in a Week 13 win over the 49ers, but shortly after that game a back injury showed up and he has not been able to practice since, Carroll said. As a member of the practice squad, Peterson does not have to show up on the team's injury report, but Carroll did say Peterson is improving, though not to the point that he could have played Sunday.
"He's still trying to get back," Carroll said. "He's been working on treatments for his back. I don't know anything more today, but last week at the end of it, he was getting better, but still hadn't turned the corner where he could really cut it loose yet. He's still got some issues, so we're still trying to figure that out."
Carroll said the back issue showed up in the first walkthrough session following Peterson's Seahawks debut against the 49ers.
"The first day back, the first step he took in walkthrough, he felt something biting in his back, a pinch or whatever, and he hasn't been able to get back yet," Carroll said.
5. Carlos Dunlap has given the Seahawks pass rush "a real boost."
Looking to spark a pass rush that hadn't been productive, the Seahawks shuffled their defensive line rotations midway through the season, and for a stretch the odd man out was veteran pass rusher Carlos Dunlap II, who played just 17 snaps in Seattle's Week 11 game against Arizona, only four snaps the following week in Washington, and then seven in a win over the 49ers in Week 13. After making the most of those limited snaps against the 49ers, a game that included a sack for a safety and a fourth-down batted pass to clinch the game, Dunlap has seen his playing time increase in recent games, and he has responded with five sacks in the past two games.
Carroll said the decrease in playing time was a result of the Seahawks, "rotating guys to see if someone who could give us a spark," and noted that Dunlap, while unhappy with the decreased role, responded well to it.
"You can see how obvious it is a factor when a guy gets hot gets going, that he can affect other guys and help the whole group," Carroll said. "… What couldn't be more clear is how guy responds to the competitive opportunity. He wasn't happy with that, he wanted to get back out there, and he has torn it up in the last few weeks and has given us a real boost. He's playing great football."