The Seahawks will head to London this week, and just in case anyone wasn’t sure, head coach Pete Carroll confirmed the team will fly there rather than going by slower means of transportation.
“We’re not taking a boat,” Carroll joked. “We’re flying.”
Carroll, clearly in an upbeat mood on Tuesday, also clarified that while the Seahawks are playing the Raiders at Wembley Stadium “we’re not going to kick a soccer ball, so it will be the same game as always.”
So now that we’ve got the important stuff out of the way—won’t travel by boat, won’t be using a soccer ball—here are six more things we learned from Carroll’s Tuesday press conference:
1. A game in London is “a big challenge” for both teams.
Carroll won’t let his players complain about a long overseas trip for this week’s game—that’s a violation of team Rule No. 2, which states there will be no whining, no complaining and no excuses. But that doesn’t mean this trip doesn’t require a lot of extra planning that has been going on long before this week.
“It’s a big challenge for the whole organization for both clubs just getting organized to get there,” Carroll said. “It’s underway and looking forward to it really. I think it’s going to be an exciting event. Nobody has home field, so we just go ahead and go for it kind of like a bowl game and we’ll go make the most of it.
“You can imagine how long these guys have been working on it, I’m talking all aspects from our club. The meetings, the travel, the trips and the preliminary trips and all that stuff. They’ve been working like crazy for this thing. It’s hard, it’s a hard thing to undertake, but they’ve got it nailed. Our guys know how to do it, it just takes a long time, it’s a big process and all that. I haven’t been (to London). I’ve never been so I don’t know anything about the setup or any of that, but we are guaranteed it’s going to be a great place. We’ve got a great place to stay and we’ve got facilities right there where we’re working out and all that. It’s kind of like a bowl game. Those always worked OK, so I’m not worried about it.”
Asked about the time difference and how that will affect sleep, Carroll said, “There is some science to it. We’ll try to sleep on the way over and then keeping them up the day that we get there so that they can get a regular night’s sleep, a real healthy night’s sleep without going to sleep during the day—that’s one of the big issues. Then we have days to turn it around. There’s a lot of different ways people have done it whether they go over in the first of the week, where they wait as long as they can. We have chosen our options after a long study and we feel really good about what we’re doing. We should be OK, we’ll be fine.”
2. The offensive line had its best game, and J.R. Sweezy is staying in the starting lineup.
The Seahawks didn’t just rush for 190 yards and have their best game on offense in Sunday’s loss to the Rams, they did it against a defensive front that has given them fits in past years. So it’s no surprise that Carroll called that game the best performance his line has had this year.
“It was the best we’ve played,” Carroll said. “And when I say that, I think of the combination work that they did where guys were really fitting together and recognizing the fronts and coming off correctly to the second level. The effort, the toughness and the finish part of it was really obvious, too. I feel like we’re just getting going, so it’s really exciting and we’re developing some guys that can come in off the bench that we’re excited about, too. George (Fant) is playing more. He’s more of a part of the game plan. (Ethan) Pocic has got a lot of flexibility where he can help us. Joey (Hunt) played really well (against Dallas) so we know he can play. Jordan Simmons is doing a nice job as we continue to give him some work behind (D.J.) Fluker and as we work through the weeks. Mike (Solari) is doing a really nice job of developing the guys to become a really full unit where we’ll also have some backup help and shouldn’t have to step back if somebody has to step out of the lineup.”
And it probably shouldn’t come as surprise with the line playing this well that the Seahawks won’t change anything about the lineup, meaning J.R. Sweezy will remain the starter at left guard even if Ethan Pocic, who opened the year as the starter before injuring his ankle, is fully healthy.
“We’re going to keep going that way. Everything fits together just right right now, but Ethan (Pocic) is working to get back in there and we have no hesitation of putting him in the lineup really at any spot, but I’m going to keep it the same as it is right now.”
3. The offense has found the style of play “we’ve been seeking.”
With the running game getting on track, and with the passing game producing a number of big plays Sunday—many of those coming off of play-action passes—the Seahawks are starting to play the style of offense that Carroll wants to see from his team.
“This is what we’ve been seeking,” Carroll said. “We feel really good about what we’re trying to do. The guys up front are doing a great job. The running back group, whoever is out there, is really giving us the kind of intensity and the aggressive focus that we want that I think it fits us together. We have to keep doing it, we have a long ways to go here. We made a big turn. It’s taken us longer than I would’ve wanted to get to this point, but we feel like we can play the game that we want to play and the style we want to play it regardless of where we’re going. We’ll find out, let’s go see if we can take it across the ocean and do it as well, but that’s really important to us.”
Adding to Carroll’s enthusiasm about the offense is that the Seahawks have gotten the job done with different running backs taking the lead, getting 100-yard games from both Chris Carson and Mike Davis in the past three weeks.
“I think it talks about the commitment from A to Z,” Carroll said. “Certainly the play of the guys up front has continued to improve, but they’ve improved as we’ve given them the reins a little bit, let them come off the ball like we like to. It’s all fit together well, we just quite didn’t get the balance of it right at the start of the season, hopefully we can build on it. Also seeing the connection between the play-pass game and the complement is clear. I don’t even mind saying it because that’s just who we are and what we’re going to do. We’re going to try to make it happen in that fashion. The fact that some of the parts are movable and interchanging, that’s good for us. That means that we have a philosophy and an approach, and you can tell who we are.”
4. Rashaad Penny is frustrated, but that's what Carroll wants and expects, and the rookie is handling the frustration the right way.
While Carson and Davis have been carrying the load the past few weeks, rookie running back Rashaad Penny was the odd man out last week—he did have nine carries for 49 yards in Week 4. The rookie back obviously wants to be playing more, but Carroll said Penny is handling it well and that his time will come eventually.
“He’s just looking for his opportunity, he’s dying to get in there,” Carroll said. “He’s just scratching, clawing to get back out there and get more turns. There just wasn’t enough (opportunities), but this is a long season, there’s a lot of carries, there’s a lot of running to be done. I can’t wait to see him get in there and get going too. He’s done nothing but good stuff for us.”
Asked how Penny is handling the lack of touches, Carroll said, “He’s handling it, but he’s frustrated and that’s exactly what I want. I want him to be frustrated, I want him to be anxious to get out there, I want him to be unsatisfied with what’s going on right now. That’s fine. I think that’s the only way he should be. He’s classy and he’s for the team and every time he would say anything, he would always talk about the team first so he’s got his priorities in line and I expect him to keep battling.”
5. Tre Flowers keeps making plays.
Tre Flowers has yet to record an interception, but the rookie cornerback has contributed to a number of big plays in his first four games—he missed one game due to injury—including three turnovers.
Two of Flowers’ pass breakups have created interceptions for teammates, one for Earl Thomas in Week 3 and one for Frank Clark last week, and he also forced a fumble in Week 3 that was recovered by Bradley McDougald.
“He’s had three big turnover plays,” Carroll said. “It’s really a product of the way he’s practiced throughout the offseason about going after the football. He really bought in to being that next guy that’s going to be a guy that’s going to be a factor in turning the football over. He practices it every day. It’s really exciting to see him be that productive. Unfortunately, he’s not getting the picks, but it doesn’t matter. We’re getting it for the team and they’re all forced plays by really good, aggressive plays on his part.”
6. Carroll wants to see his defense tackle better than it did on Sunday, and expects to see that happen going forward.
The Seahawks knew the Rams, who have arguably the best offense in the NFL, were going to complete plenty of passes and gain some yards, but what Carroll wanted to see his team do better in that game was better tackling of receivers and running backs after the catch was made.
Asked how that can get cleaned up in-season, Carroll said, “There really are ways. Sometimes, it’s scheme. You get closer to where the guys are so that there’s not so much space. We had given a lot of ground in some coverage drops that allowed for a lot of room. You give Todd Gurley that much room, he’s just about impossible to get down one-on-one. Some guys have done it, but it’s rare. Scheme sometimes, we work a lot of technique stuff, there’s a lot of stuff that we learn from film about style of runs and angles and pursuit and how to fit yourself into the situation you have, whether it’s the sidelines or other tacklers to work with. We can work on all this stuff. You don’t have to tackle at full speed to get better and we’ve been promoting that for a long time. It’s the technique and the approach and the way that you fit things up. Those are the ways, and so we expect that we should be better. And really, it goes back to, if I would say this too, one of the biggest techniques we have is using our imagination. You have to imagine what the play would call for as you’re approaching it, because we can go full-speed and we run all the way and we don’t hit each other and we can only wear pads one day a week, but it is in the approach. Can you be really mindful of that opportunity and how it would be at full speed, top speed and what you would do in the situation? That’s where using our imagination is a very powerful skill for us to develop when you can’t hit and you can’t do things full-speed.”
Photos from Tuesday's practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center in preparation for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.