A day after the Seahawks lost in overtime to the Cincinnati Bengals, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll still had a hard time believing his team gave up a 17-point fourth-quarter lead.
"Well no matter how many times I look at this, I can't get the end to change," Carroll said. "We've done a lot of work on this game to figure it out, trying to come to some conclusions about some stuff, and we're still working on it."
Carroll said there was no one obvious reason for Seattle's fourth-quarter struggles on offense, noting, "There's a lot of things. There's no one thing." And on defense, he said a lot of "really fixable things" added up to a lot of big plays for Cincinnati.
"Any sequence in there," Carroll said. "We could have made a third-down stop on defense. Any sequence in there, I think we had two third-and-4s and a third-and-2 that we didn't convert on a day we were making some third-down conversions and handling those situations. By design we were trying to stay in third-and-6-or-less against these guys and we got there, then we didn't finish. Any one of those wins might have been the difference in the game, so it's just frustrating we didn't get any of them when we needed them."
Here are five other things that stood out from Carroll's Monday press conference:
1. Marshawn Lynch should be back, but Jordan Hill might be out "a couple of weeks."
After missing two straight games with a hamstring injury, Marshawn Lynch is likely to return to practice this week, Carroll said, which if all goes well, should mean the Pro Bowl back will be able to play Sunday against Carolina.
"He's supposed to be back, yeah," Carroll said. "He had a good workout today and he should be on track for Thursday."
Even with Lynch back, however, it's safe to assume that Thomas Rawls will play more than he did before Lynch's injury. Rawls has gone over 100 yards in two of the past three games, including 169 yards on 23 carries Sunday, so he'll continue to play even when Lynch is back.
"We're going to feel real comfortable about him in the two spot, coming in of the bench," Carroll said. "We do roll our guys quite a bit. There's no reason for him not to play. He has done a great job for us, and I would say he has probably exceeded our expectations at this point, so we're happy to have him, and we're going to put him in there."
Linebacker Bobby Wagner left the game briefly with a strained pectoral muscle, but missed just two plays before returning to the game. Carroll said they're not worried about the injury being a long-term issue, but that Wagner's status for this week is still up in the air.
"I would think from what I hear, maybe it's a couple weeks if it doesn't respond," Carroll said. "But he might be able to play this week too, so we'll wait and see."
On defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who left the game with a quadriceps injury, Carroll said, "It looks like Jordan might be a couple of weeks." The Seahawks are hoping to get Demarcus Dobbs back from a shoulder injury that kept him out against the Bengals, but if he can't go, Carroll admitted Seattle could be "pretty thin" on the defensive line.
Carroll confirmed that cornerback Tharold Simon will have surgery on his toe this week after being placed on injured reserve Saturday.
2. The offensive line was "the best it has been."
Despite how disappointed the Seahawks were in the way they finished the game, plenty of good things happened against the Bengals, and perhaps nothing was more encouraging for the team going forward than the improved play of the offensive line.
"Without question the offensive line of scrimmage was really the best it has been," Carroll said. "We came off the ball well, we ran the football the way we'd like to. We got 30 carries, we were running for a lot of yards and all. That felt like we're accustomed to, but unfortunately we just needed a first down or two in the fourth quarter to give us the clock and the chance to put the game away. That was a big improvement for us. The communication was good, Russell (Wilson) was able to help us in protection a couple of times that really allowed us to get some big plays. It was the sharpest we've been."
The Seahawks rushed for 200 yards on 30 carries in the game, and while Wilson was sacked four times, he was quick to point out that some of those were on him, not the line.
"The tempo coming off the football was really good," Carroll said. "We moved the line of scrimmage well. We were way more consistent with our pickups and our targeting. We adjusted to a couple things that happened during the game really well. We were pretty sharp at the line of scrimmage in terms of getting off the ball together and all of that, we had the one penalty backed up. So there was just a lot of improvements kind of in the general area that I'm hoping that we can just keep going with it. It really felt attitude-wise much more in line with what we have done in the past."
3. The receivers are making the most out of their opportunities.
The Seahawks attempted the fewest passes in the NFL from 2012 to 2014, so it's hardly breaking news that their receivers only get so many chances to make plays on any given Sunday, but so far this season, Seattle's pass-catchers, and starting receiver Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse in particular, are making the most of their chances. Baldwin had three catches for 70 yards on three targets Sunday, while Kearse had two for 38 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown, while being targeted three times.
"They're really maximizing their chances, both those guys," Carroll said. "If you look at their targets to catches and stuff like that, they're almost hitting 100 percent on some of those. They really continue to come through in a big way. They're very effective, very consistent, very tough, and are doing the really smart things too with their opportunities. The blitz read that we make to Doug is just a great execution by Russell and Doug. The other touchdown was an easy one really, as it turned out for Jermaine. But those guys are the guys that really come through and we can really count on. They're terrific leaders for us."
The same can be said for tight end Jimmy Graham, who had three catches for 30 yards Sunday.
"We'd love to get more," Carroll said of throwing to Graham. "We'd love to get more for everybody. We'd love to get the ball in his hands more. We only completed 15 passes in this game, so we need to get more activity out of him just like we need to get more out of the other guys too. He's working hard at it."
4. Turnover margin decides game, but not so much this year.
Turnover differential is usually one of the most telling stats in football. Teams that take care of the ball on offense and force turnovers on defense tend to win a lot more games than they lose, which is why Carroll and his coaching staff put so much energy into winning the turnover battle, preaching to their players, "It's all about the ball."
Yet a strange thing has happened so far this year. In Seattle's three losses, they have a plus-2 turnover ratio, including a 2-1 advantage in Cincinnati. In their two wins, however, the Seahawks are minus-2 in that category. Carroll was at a loss for how to explain that Monday, but it's not a trend he sees continuing.
"I can't even explain that to you," Carroll said. "I've got so many games in our history—we're into 70-games or something like that, whatever it is, of winning games when we have plus turnover ratio, and losses are a couple, there's a handful of them. So to have these on the reverse of that, I don't understand it. It doesn't make sense to me. Usually when you control the football, you win, and our stats aren't supporting that for the first time in 14 years. It's really odd, and I can't imagine it'll stay the same, that should turn. All of the principles and the odds of that just aren't in the right direction right now.
5. Those Tyler Eifert touchdowns you thought were Kam Chancellor's fault weren't Kam Chancellor's fault.
Andy Dalton hit tight end Tyler Eifert on a very similar play for two of Cincinnati's three touchdowns, and on both occasions it looked like safety Kam Chancellor might have been the player who let Eifert get open. Carroll made it clear, however, that Chancellor was where he was supposed to be on both plays.
"No, that's not true," Carroll said when asked about Chancellor being at fault. "They were zones, and the deep coverage didn't get it done."
Asked more about it, Carroll said, "I just told you that they weren't (Chancellor's fault). His assignment was to go where he went. We made a mistake on the first one, then we talked about it and cleared it up on the sidelines. Guys knew what was going on. Really Cary (Williams) had a chance to make that play, he was just inches from making the second play. The first play we made a mistake on, the second play they just beat us with the rhythm of it. It was unfortunate, because usually we make those corrections and can pull that off so it wouldn't happen again."