After a disappointing 0-2 start to the season, the Seahawks returned home in Week 3 and earned an impressive shutout victory over the Chicago Bears. So was Seahawks coach Pete Carroll relieved that his team was able to get that first win under their belt?
"Heck yeah, there's a lot of relief with that" Carroll. "But you're still looking at 1-2, so it's a long ways home."
There is still work to be done for the Seahawks, but after watching the tape of Sunday's 26-0 win, Carroll saw plenty of things his team can build on going forward. Here are five takeaways from Carroll's press conference (if you're looking for injury updates, you can find them here).
1. The Seahawks finished.
One of the big focuses for the Seahawks after an 0-2 start was on finishing games stronger. The finish is something on which Carroll places a lot of importance, but in their first two games, the Seahawks held fourth quarter leads twice, and twice they ended up losing. Against Chicago, however, the Seahawks finished strong, outscoring the Bears 20-0 after halftime, and outgaining them 246-37.
"In the other games we've been looking for the finish, how we can get to the fourth quarter and hammer the fourth quarter and do the things we like to do, play defense in that manner when you know they're trying to catch up," Carroll said. "That was really satisfying to have that feeling again. We really executed well in the second half across the board. I think they had 40 yards or something and we had 240 or something, so we turned it. We've done that quite a bit over the years, and that felt really comfortable and fun to see it, players could feel it. You have to remember those feelings, you have to remember the sense of what that's like to be help recreate it in a more regular fashion, and we got to do that. It was good."
2. Kam Chancellor "did everything right" in his return.
After just three days of practice, Kam Chancellor started and played 80 percent of Seattle's defensive snaps in his first game of the season, and there were few, if any, signs of rust.
"He was really solid," Carroll said. "He did everything right, he was in the right spots. I think there's a couple of hits he'll clean up—he glanced off of some things when he was cleaning up piles and all—but he was going after it. How he did it in a week's time, I don't know, but he was very much in command, he made his calls and fit in right and had everybody in the right place, so it was good."
In particular, the film study revealed that Chancellor helped get the defense in position on run fits against a Bears offense that came out determined to pound the ball.
"There were a lot of intricacies of the fits that this game called for," Carroll said. "… This was more demanding than others in that regard, and he really helped us and did a nice job. We were right throughout the game."
3. The offensive line is a work in progress, but there are encouraging signs.
For the third straight game, Seattle's offensive line got better as the game went on, cleaning up some issues that contributed to a slow start while paving the way for a big second half in which the Seahawks gained 246 yards, with 118 of them coming on the ground.
"It improved during the game," Carroll said. "We got better as we went. We didn't run the ball a lot in the first half… Once we got going, it was a terrific performance. I think we had 240-something yards in the second half, so that's a big day, and we ran for 100-whatever, so those are good numbers. We didn't protect the passer as well as we'd have liked early. It was a combination of thing, it's not always just the guys blocking up front—we've got to get open a little bit, we've got get rid of the ball a little bit, all of those things contribute."
Carroll has repeatedly preached patience with Seattle's line, which features two new starters, center Drew Nowak and right tackle Garry Gilliam, and a left guard, Justin Britt, who played right tackle until midway through training camp. Carroll noted Nowak's improvement Sunday, and said he expects the group to continue its growth as the season goes on.
"I think we're still progressing, I think we're still getting better," he said. "I think Drew played maybe his best game, most aggressive game blocking in the running game. He was fine in pass protection for the most part. It just is as it is, it's this process and we're growing and getting better."
4. It took a "marvelous athlete" to pull off trick punt return.
For the Seahawks to pull off the same trick punt return as the one the St. Louis Rams burned them with a year earlier, coaches knew they needed a special player to execute the return. While Tyler Lockett had to do a good job selling a "catch" on one side of the field, Richard Sherman had to run from the line of scrimmage, where he was lined up to block one of Chicago's gunners, back more than 40 yards to make an over-the-shoulder catch before turning around and returning the punt 64 yards.
"He's a marvelous athlete," Carroll said of Sherman. "He catches punts every day, he's a great catcher. He's an aspiring punt returner, so he works really hard at it, he's waiting for his opportunities. He did it beautifully in practice. If anybody's going to do something like that right, he's going to do it.
"There's a lot going on, there's so much that happens on that play to get that to work, it's a marvelous job of executing—everybody involved. But you've got to act it out, get it started, run 40, 50 yards down the field, catch the football, turn around, go the other way trying to go 70 or 80. He's one of those guys that can pull things like that off, and he did it."
5. Carroll is keeping an eye on Dan Quinn's Atlanta Falcons.
While Carroll's primary focus this time of year is on his own team, he can't help but pay attention to what some of his former assistants are doing in new jobs. Most notably, Dan Quinn, who is in his first year as Atlanta's head coach after serving as Seattle's defensive coordinator, is off to a 3-0 start, having overcome double-digit deficits in each of the past two games. At 3-0, the Falcons are already halfway to last year's win total for the entire season.
"I'm watching every bit I can," Carroll said. "We've been communicating throughout and having fun with it. What a great, great start. And they've done it in dramatic fashion too, they've been a terrific finishing team, a lot of offense, and the defense is really improved. He's having a blast and I couldn't be more excited for him. I'm watching it very closely."