Pete Carroll: “I Don’t Mind Being Different” When It Comes To Offensive Philosophy

Like everyone else watching Monday night’s high-scoring showdown between the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was entertained by what he saw on his television.

“That was pretty impressive, Jeez,” Carroll said. “… The offenses were just crazy. There were some huge defensive plays in the game, but there was so much offense and just so much explosion and all. It was as good of a game as I can remember seeing. It reminds me of the old AFL games back in the day, it was just such a shootout. Amazing.”

Monday’s “amazing” shootout, which the Rams won 54-51, featured not just 105 points, but also 56 first downs, 1,001 total yards, nine lead changes and 18 plays of 20 or more yards. It was unambiguously entertaining, but that doesn’t mean, even in today’s NFL, it’s the only way to succeed.

The way Carroll—and plenty of other accomplished coaches, for that matter—views it, there is still a lot of value in having a running game that can help control the clock, and in playing good defense and taking care of the ball on offense. As fun as those back and forth quick scoring drives are, they can put stress on a defense—in Monday’s game, only one possession took more than five minutes off the clock, and the teams combined for 30 possessions. And as impressive as both offenses were, they also combined to turn the ball over seven times, including five by the Chiefs, who very well could have won if they had avoided even one of those turnovers, two of which were defensive touchdowns for the Rams defense.

Carroll has a lot of respect for the offensive minds leading teams like the Rams, Chiefs and Saints—he has raved about Rams coach Sean McVay’s influence on the team prior to both meetings this season—he just prefers to coach a little bit different style of football, one that has produced a lot of sustained success at the college and NFL levels. Relying on a strong running game, efficient quarterback play and a great defense, the Seahawks won 10 or more games for five straight seasons from 2012-2016, advancing to at least the divisional round of the playoffs each year and reaching the Super Bowl twice, winning it once, and they allowed the fewest points in the NFL in four of those seasons. That stretch was highlighted by a Super Bowl-winning season that was capped off by Seattle holding a historically great Broncos offense to 8 points in Super Bowl XLVIII.  

“You know, I don't mind being different at all,” Carroll said. “I didn't mind it when we were in college either. We weren't spreading out and doing all the stuff that other people were doing. We were running a pretty balanced attack back in the day and ran for a lot of yards with a lot of big time running backs. I think it's a great way to play. When I look at—in college football and to look back, I look at the way that Nick (Saban) is doing his stuff (at Alabama)—they are still a very formidable running attack always. And in that when you're playing all-spread teams week and week out, it's a big transition for you, and being unique is OK, particularly when you're being aggressive and tough.”

And don’t take Carroll’s desire to still have a balanced, turnover-averse offense for a willingness to sacrifice production. The Seahawks have their own way of doing things, but they still expect to be explosive and score points. And since Week 4 when they started a streak of seven straight games with more than 150 rushing yards, the Seahawks rank 11th in scoring (25.9), eighth in points per drive (2.48), second in quarterback rating (118.1), ninth in explosive plays (61), ninth in red-zone touchdown percentage (68 percent), all while committing only four turnovers, which is tied for the fewest in the NFL over that span.

Is there still room for the Seahawks offense to improve over the final six games of the season? Of course—Seattle could be better than its 5-5 record if the offense had started the season better, or if it had made a couple more plays in close losses to the Rams and Chargers. But ranking in the top third of the league in a number of important numbers, all while adjusting to a new offensive coordinator and new offensive line coach, is hardly a bad foundation to build off of going down the stretch. And when you factor in how Seattle’s running game and lack of turnovers can help take pressure off of the defense, it’s easy to understand why Carroll likes his team’s style, even if it might not quite move the needle in the same way two teams trading touchdowns on Monday night does for a casual fan.

Practice photos from the Seahawks' Tuesday workout at Virginia Mason Athletic Center ahead of Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.

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