When the Seahawks played the Rams in Los Angeles last season, Pete Carroll was asked a number of times what it meant to return to the city, and the building, where he coached USC for nearly a decade. After the game, he was asked what it meant to coach again in the Coliseum, then again this year he was asked about returning to L.A. prior to Seattle's Week 5 game against the Rams.
Nearly every time, Carroll answered by saying it was special to him to return to L.A. and the building where he made so many memories with the Trojans, but he also always downplayed the significance of it all.
However on Sunday, following his team's 16-10 victory over the Rams, Carroll allowed himself a moment of reflection, walking from the visitor's locker room down the tunnel to take another look at the field and the stadium where he helped turn USC into a college football dynasty. And in that moment, Carroll allowed himself to fully experience the emotions he had suppressed up until that point.
"I have consistently blown it off, like, 'It's fun, I like it," Carroll said Monday on 710 ESPN Seattle. "Yesterday after the game, I had a couple minutes and I went back down there, and I just got overwhelmed. That's the first time that's happened; I hadn't let myself go there. And I was just overwhelmed with all of the stuff that had happened in those years. It was just a cavalcade of moments and instances and games and hugs and high fives and all that stuff, and it was really special. I just hadn't done that… I just walked down to the tunnel, looking out. It was really something. Those wonderful years, those wonderful experiences just came flooding back. I go there other times, but I hadn't done it there; I just didn't let myself until that happened."
Asked which moments he was reflecting on at the bottom of the tunnel, Carroll said, "There's too many, there's thousands of them. I go back to the first UCLA game, the last game of the season the first year, the first time the stadium was filled. It was a night game, and that was the first time I ever felt the Coliseum smoking like it did, and it was like that for years after that. We went five years in a row with sellouts, which they had never done before, so it just went crazy during that time. There were the huge matchups with Ohio State and Auburn coming in there, Nebraska, those games that went along with the Pac-10 stuff at the time. The overtime win, Carson (Palmer) runs one in. Big matchups—we couldn't beat Kansas State that one time, 6-0 with an unbelievable fight right to the end. Troy Polamalu, all those wonderful players, Mike Williams, Reggie (Bush) and LenDale (White), it just goes on and on and on. Eddie Orgeron, one of the great ball coaches that we put that thing together with. It just goes on, it just doesn't stop. I was just overwhelmed by it."
In addition to Carroll's trip down memory lane, here are five other takeaways from his weekly appearance on the Brock and Salk Show:
1. The Rams are much improved.
While the Seahawks came out on top Sunday, Carroll, as well as his players, were impressed with their opponent, who came into the game with a 3-1 record.
"That's the best Rams team we've played in a long time, so to get a win on the road was good," Carroll said.
As for why the Rams impressed him, Carroll said, "They've always been good defensively because they have really good guys up front. They're terrific up front, that's where it starts. So that has been the steady. Their special teams has always been great. They were really pretty much neutralized yesterday, but they've been that way. But now their offense has some really good firepower to it, Sean (McVay) has brought that to them. Up until our game, they've been roaring. I think it's that combination that makes them better. And they have good talent, they have a lot of good draft picks, and they've also acquired some really smart guys who fit their system."
2. Carroll is calmer than you.
While Seahawks fans were no doubt stressed out watching the Rams' final drive, Carroll was enjoying himself in those game-deciding moments.
"It was such a cool moment," Carroll said.
Asked about his emotions when a third-down pass to the end zone was nearly caught, Carroll laughed and said, "I dunno. The guy missed it, I don't care. I've been through so many of those, I'm blowing those off, dude. I didn't go where you go. I don't think he's going to catch it, and he didn't, so good, next play…. It was fantastic."
Carroll continued, saying, "That was so much fun. For the players on the field, even more so than the guys on the sideline, that is such an intense sequence right there. That's living at its greatest. That's as much as you can ask for. You know we're going to win, we're going to come through and get it done, so you're just waiting for the cool thing to happen, and it did. That was great."
3. Russell Wilson's touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham "was just perfect."
The Seahawks have tried to get Jimmy Graham the ball in the end zone this season, but through four games, their big tight end did not have a touchdown. That changed against the Rams when Wilson hit Graham on a fade route with a well-placed pass, a play those two had missed on earlier this season.
"It was just perfect," Carroll said. "We've been waiting, we've been working on it for so long. Russ threw him out of bounds the last time we tried it. It's really important to get that done, so we'll come back to it again and be happy to go there… They just worked on it so much. The throw a couple weeks we missed, it was, 'Why did that happen?' Because we have worked so hard at it. We'll get more of that done, make them have to defend it."
4. Earl Thomas's value isn't always as obvious as it was Sunday.
Thomas made a couple of big plays Sunday, forcing a fumble and intercepting a Jared Goff pass. But while he doesn't create two turnovers every week, Thomas has had a huge role in Seattle's defensive success throughout his career.
"His value is hidden a tremendous amount of the time, because when you play us, and you see year after year, week after week, there's no post routes and seam routes thrown for touchdowns," Carroll said. "They just don't happen, hopefully. That's where it starts with his play back there. That's what happens in football. You see post routes for touchdowns and go-balls. The corners take care of the go-balls, and he takes care of all that stuff in the middle… It's that tremendous consistency over a really long period of time. It is a big, big deal in the scheme, and he has been able to carry it out because he's just a tremendous football player."
5. Injury updates.
Defensive end Michael Bennett came off the field with a sore foot late in the first half, but returned to play in the second half. That was Seattle's only new injury reported by Carroll, and while he didn't have an update Monday morning, he didn't sound overly concerned about Bennett's injury.
"I haven't seen Mike today," Carroll said. "I'm sure he's walking a little sore. He's got that fascia thing down there a little bit. I don't know how bad it was, we'll get a look at it. It was sore, but he came back and played, which was great. Mike wanted to finish the game knowing the (bye) week was coming up and all."
Asked about defensive end Cliff Avril, who missed the game with a neck injury, Carroll said, "I think the (bye) week comes up at a good time for us. We're trying to get as much time between the accident and when they reassess. No progress on that, no work on that right now. We'll just keep going one day at a time, really."
While Doug Baldwin has played the last two games with a groin injury, he has been limited in practice leading up to those games. Carroll said the bye week will be good for Baldwin, noting the receiver will be "back to full go when we return."
Carroll also said running back C.J. Prosise should be back following the bye after missing the last two games with an ankle injury.
Game action photos from the Seahawks' 16-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5.