The Seahawks improved to 3-3 on Sunday with a win over the Cardinals, a game that saw their defense take a big step forward. For more on those defensive improvements and other news and notes, here are six takeaways from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll's Monday press conference:
1. "Everything" got better with the defense's performance.
So much went better for Seattle's defense on Sunday than it had in previous weeks as the Seahawks held the Cardinals offense to a single field goal, 15 first downs and 315 yards.
The Seahawks kept Arizona's running backs in check—quarterback Kyler Murray was able to make big plays with his legs, however—they recorded a season-high six sacks, were good on third down, and the rookie cornerbacks came up with two more takeaways.
So when Carroll was asked what about that performance gave him optimism about the defense moving forward, it's no surprise that his answer was "everything."
"Everything, really everything," he said. "It started up front, guys got off of the ball really well. We had a little trouble of tracking down the quarterback, but we really had great pressure during the day. The running game, the traditional running game, we played especially well. We had a hard time getting (Kyler) Murray down. The fact that we played the kind of game that gave our offense a chance to win when we weren't really productive—we moved the ball okay and we were in position to score a lot of points, but we didn't hit it in the redzone like we needed to. So we needed the defense to play well, so it was a good, combined win for us. We know that we can count on either side of the football right now."
2. Poona Ford played one of the best games of his career.
A big part of Seattle's defensive improvement was the play of the defensive line, which capitalized on schematic adjustments to make a number of big plays, including three sacks from the interior linemen Poona Ford, Quinton Jefferson and Shelby Harris. Ford in particular had a big game, recording three tackles for loss, matching a career high, in what was one of the best performances of his career according to Carroll.
"He took advantage of the plan," Carroll said. "Some things were adjusted, he took advantage of it, and really was active. He had a really good game, this was his best game of the season for sure and one of his better games ever, so it was really fun to see that."
3. The Seahawks need to get the bad plays out of their game.
For most of Sunday's game, the Seahawks did a lot of good things on special teams, including four made field goals on as many attempts, solid kick coverage and some big punts from Michael Dickson. All of that was overshadowed, however, but one disastrous play, a punt on which an unblocked rusher got to Dickson in the end zone, leading to a fumble that Arizona recovered for its only touchdown of the game. It continued a trend on special teams in which the Seahawks do a lot of good things, but also commit one egregious error that directly leads to an opponent touchdown. The 49ers got a touchdown following a muffed punt on which a player was blocked into Tyler Lockett, the Lions got a touchdown when Lockett fumbled a punt return, and the Saints got a touchdown when Dickson failed to get off a punt on a designed rollout.
"Golly, it's just bugging the heck out of all of us because we are really good on teams on 90 percent of it, but then we have a play that wrecks the game for you in a sense," Carroll said. "We really have had those almost disastrous plays that just don't fit us at all. We are working hard, we made a big plea to the guys that we have to clean up every snap, not just some here or some there. We've been really consistent with our coverage and the kickers are doing well, so it's unfortunate. Mike's (Dickson) decision last week and then this one, we just made a real error on the one that happened this week. But man, those are big plays. We are going to do everything in our power to fix it."
When it comes to yesterday's miscue, special teams captain Nick Bellore went out of his way after the game to make it known that the mistake was his, and not that of Cullen Gillaspia, who as the personal protector in the backfield, might have looked to have been at fault.
"I love that Nick would step up," Carroll said. "Because it looked like, 'How come the personal protector didn't do it?' It wasn't his job, it wasn't his job. Yeah, (Bellore's) a stud."
4. Kenneth Walker III is going to get even better.
Making his first career start, rookie running back Kenneth Walker III rushed for 97 yards and a score on 21 carries, a big game that came a week after he gained 88 yards on eight carries in relief of Rashaad Penny, including a 69-yard score. Walker no doubt made a great impression on Sunday, but what might be most exciting about his performance is that he still has room to grow.
"I loved that he showed the stuff that we had been seeing," Carroll said. "You really saw the extraordinary side to side, lateral stuff that he has. He'll be more consistent though, he's going to get better. He's going to get better at seeing things, taking advantage of blocks, and all of that. Man, he's a good football player though. Twenty-one carries, that's a good first start for him. That was a healthy dose, and I'm hoping that we can keep him growing and he gets his feel and timing because he's really a weapon. We're pumped up about it."
5. Dee Eskridge is growing into a bigger role.
Injuries limited Dee Eskridge's rookie season, and the receiver again got sidelined this summer by injury, but as he has gotten fully healthy and more immersed in the offense, Eskridge is starting to show off his playmaking ability. On Sunday, Eskridge had three catches for 39 yards, including a big grab on Seattle's only touchdown drive of the game.
"The last two weeks, he's done a really good job," Carroll said. "Like I said, he was sick. He missed Wednesday. We weren't sure, he had to Zoom in on Thursday's meeting, but he felt good enough to get to the practice field so, he's done a really good job last couple of weeks doing stuff right and being on call and we can count on him. We want him to be involved and you can see why. He looks good, he's quick and explosive and all of that and we can't wait to include him more as we go. So, it's just part of the process right now."
6. Injury updates.
Carroll said after Sunday's game that the Seahawks came out of it pretty clean from an injury standpoint, but there are a few players who didn't play Sunday who are trying to work their way back.
Defensive tackle Al Woods was held out with a knee injury, but is hoping to get back on the practice field this week.
"He wants to practice on Wednesday, he feels pretty good about it," Carroll said. "He needed the break. It was close for him to try, he could have tried, but we really didn't want to force it, thinking that it might cause the soreness that he had to linger a little bit. We will take it easy on him on Wednesday also, but he wants to go, so that's a good sign."
On guard Gabe Jackson, who like Woods was injured in Seattle's Week 5 game at New Orleans, Carroll said, "We've got to wait and see. Right off of the bat, I can't tell you that he is raring to go just yet. We will have to see how the days go this week."
Carroll also updated the status of defensive end L.J. Collier, who has returned to practice but remains on injured reserve for now. Collier was coming back from an elbow injury suffered in training camp, but last week he injured his thumb, which complicated his potential return for Sunday's game. Because Collier is on injured reserve and not on the 53-man roster, he did not have to be listed on the injury report.
"He hurt his thumb last week, a little bit late in the week, and it just slowed him down a little bit," he said. "It would have really forced the issue to have him play. It happened in Thursday's practice. So we'll have to wait and see, we'll see how it's going."