The Seahawks clinched the NFC West title with 20-9 win over the Rams on Sunday, their fifth division title under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, and a day later Carroll met with the media to talk about that game, what lies ahead, a few injuries and more.
Here are five takeaways from Carroll's press conference:
1. The Seahawks are "going all-out" in Week 17 even if the odds of getting the No. 1 seed aren't great.
Sunday's win over the Rams means the Seahawks can finish no worse than the No. 3 seed, but moving up will require some help from the Bears, who host Green Bay, currently the NFC's top seed, and the Panthers, who host New Orleans. And while having 12- and 11-win teams both lose important games this weekend might not be the most likely scenario, Carroll and the Seahawks will approach this week like everything is still at stake. So if you were hoping to see the Seahawks rest some starters figuring the No. 3 seed is most likely anyway, prepare to be disappointed on Sunday.
"We're going for it, we would love to have that break for players if we can get it," Carroll said. "… We're playing for it, because it's good for you, it's good for your body and all that, so we're going to try to take care of business and get that thing if it's possible. So we're going all-out again this week. There's no other thought than this is a championship opportunity to put ourselves in the best situation going into the playoffs."
In addition to playing for a better seed, no matter how unlikely, Carroll sees value in his team maintaining the level of consistency and focus heading into the playoffs.
"The other side of this is maintaining the consistency and maintaining the regiment that we have and the mentality that we have, I don't want to break that thing right now, I don't want to break that mentality at all," Carroll said. "We want to stay right with it and keep pushing, trying to get better. We've got a lot of room to get better, we made a lot of mistakes that we can fix during the course of this week for the next game and leading into the next couple games and all that. So I don't like taking the chance of breaking the mentality. I think we can get up every single week, we can get every freakin' week, it doesn't matter. There's like coaches that say, 'Oh you get up four or five times a year, or three four times a year,' I've never thought that, and we're not going to mess with that right now, we're going to keep on rolling."
2. Russell Wilson's second half was an example of a player being ready for a championship moment.
While Carroll isn't considered part of the Bill Walsh coaching tree, he did learn a ton from the legendary 49ers coach when Carroll was the defensive coordinator in San Francisco in the mid-1990s and Walsh, retired from coaching, was a member of the 49ers' front office. And one conversation between the two that Carroll shared Monday was about how Walsh's teams tended to perform so well in playoff games. Walsh explained to Carroll that a key to the 49ers' postseason was getting players to treat those games just like any other, meaning they weren't trying to hard or getting outside of themselves.
"You want to make sure that at least you do what you're capable of doing and you don't come up short by being distracted, by trying to hard, by being outside of yourself and not being yourself," Carroll said, recalling Walsh's advice. "And in that, they use to play so fast in championship situations, they used to look so well-grooved. Well, he never asked them to do anything they weren't already doing, that they didn't already know. They would never do new stuff that would take a player or group outside of what they're capable of.
"That mentality has meant so much to me for such a long time, we're talking 20-something years of thinking this way. It's to see championship moments as moments that you're prepared for, and you don't have to do things differently to play in those moments. What you need to do is do what you're capable of, and that's enough of a challenge in itself, because everybody wants to win, so they want to do what they think they need to do to win, and sometimes that takes you outside of what you're good at. We prepare and practice our tails off to be really efficient and solid and technique-sound and precise about what we're doing. And if you're going to try to go make something else up on gameday in the moment, you're likely not to do well, and we want to guarantee our success and guarantee our consistency.
And on Sunday with the NFC West title on the line, the Seahawks embraced that approach by playing one of their best games of the season in a win over the Rams. And one player who rose to occasion by not trying to rise to the occasion was quarterback Russell Wilson, who after quiet first half for him and the offense, completed 10 of 13 passes in the second half for 141 yards and a touchdown, giving him a 137 passer rating for the half, while also running for a 4-yard score.
"In the second half of that game, Russell was 10 for 13, we were 5 for 7 on third down, his passer rating was 130-something, he ran one and scored, he threw another touchdown," Carroll said. "That's what I'm talking about. That's what Russell's capable of, and then the championship moment, in the second half of the biggest opportunity we would have to that point of the season, he freakin' killed it. That's what I'm talking about. That's what we want guys to do. We want to perform like you're capable. He didn't do anything crazy, he threw a pass to David (Moore), he threw a little dump to Carlos (Hyde), and he got in the corner of the end zone. He functioned really well in the crucial third down situation, makes a great throw to Jake (Hollister) that he makes him practice every day. He did exactly what he was capable of, which is awesome under those circumstances. That's what we're trying to get done, and that's what we preach and that's what we live to do, and we live for those opportunities to prove that we can do it.
"When we needed it most, he was at his best, and that's all we could hope for. He didn't have to do anything crazy, he just did great, just doing him."
3. The defense made "a dramatic shift" at the right time of year.
The Seahawks defensive turnaround since midseason has been impressive, with the Seahawks going from averaging 30.4 points through their first eight games to giving up a league-low 15.0 over their last seven. And while Carroll always believed that Seattle's defense was capable of playing this way, what he's most encouraged by is that the defense is playing at its best at this time of year.
"It's a dramatic shift, it is statistically, more than anything," Carroll said. "We had the guys to do some good football here a while back, we just weren't numbering out right, but now, to go seven weeks of really, really good football, that's that's a good turnaround now. I'm really happy for everybody, obviously and the coaches and the players and all that, but most of all that we're hitting at the right time, that's what's really valuable… This has come really through hard work and discipline and trust and belief and all of that. It is about believing in people, it's the players believing in each other as well as their coaches and all that. So it has been a dramatic shift in that sense, but the most important thing is that we're playing good football now. That's what's important."
4. Jordyn Brooks continues to impress.
Rookie linebacker Jordyn Brooks has been playing very well ever since taking on a starting role earlier this season, and Sunday's game was one of his best performances yet, with Brooks recording eight tackles while playing only 28 snaps on defense, including two during Seattle's third-quarter goal-line stand.
"He played great," Carroll said. "He really did. He was physical and tough, and really saw things well. We had to adjust some things during the game to fit stuff up, which he was able to do and did well. He's an impacting football player, he's really good. He really handles the game well and he can communicate well. You don't feel like you're talking to a pup that's all wild eyed and all that, he's really tuned in and can make sense of the adjustments and stuff like that, which is really important obviously to play well."
5. Injury updates.
Carroll said Sunday that linebacker Bobby Wagner had a bruised forearm coming out of the game, but asked about it Monday, he said, "He won't even let us look at it, so I think he's OK."
On right tackle Brandon Shell, who was active but did not play, Carroll said Shell wanted to play and could have gone in an emergency, but they wanted to give him another week to rest and avoid potentially re-injuring his ankle. Shell should return to practice this week, Carroll said.
Cornerback Tre Flowers, who went on injured reserve earlier this month with a hamstring injury, returned to practice last week and should be ready for Sunday's game against the 49ers, Carroll said.
Carroll said last week that the hope was for rookie defensive end Darrell Taylor, who has been on the non-football injury list all season, to return to practice this week, but that might not happen now.
"He's pretty sore after his workouts over the weekend, so I can't tell you, but that doesn't bode well going forward, as far as I can tell. But give us until Wednesday and we'll see what's going on."
The best photos from Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams at Lumen Field. Fueled by Nesquik.