As the celebration continued in the visitor's locker room at MetLife Stadium, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll reflected on how far his team has come since a dud of a second half led to a season-opening loss to the Rams.
The Seahawks had just finished off a 24-3 win on the strength of a dominant defensive performance for their third straight victory, and heading into the bye week, Carroll couldn't contain his excitement for what this team can become going forward.
"With a lot of hope and looking toward the future, and developing the young guys, seeing them able to play a role for us just gives us the confidence that we're going to keep getting better," Carroll said. "So, we're not a finished product, we're just getting rolling. It's really exciting to be able to tell you that because what I'm probably all together most proud of is how we played the second half of the last three weeks. We played great football and got it going and cleaned up some of the stuff that happened in the first halves of those games, and we're able to put games away. That finishing mentality is really, really valuable to us, and we're going to keep building on it."
Quarterback Geno Smith, like his coach, is excited about the future not because of what he has seen so far, but because he knows the Seahawks are capable of more.
"I think we're still getting better as a team," Smith said. "I think overall, we've got a lot of room for improvement. I think a lot of guys battled; a lot of guys stepped up. We we're putting offensive lineman in left and right, and guys were stepping up, making plays. The defense played a tremendous game. Probably one of the best games I've seen them play. Guys stepped up all around, and Witherspoon had a tremendous day. The defensive line, linebackers, secondary, everybody played a great game, and I think it was a great win for this team."
As was the case last year, the Seahawks have relied on young players in big spots, be it first-round picks Devon Witherspoon and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who both have significant roles; or Derick Hall, who is making his presence felt in the outside linebacker rotation; or rookie offensive linemen Anthony Bradford and Olu Oluwatimi who have taken over for injured starters; or running back Zach Charbonnet, who has emerged as a physical complement to Kenneth Walker III; or numerous other rookies contributing on special teams.
All of those players have contributed already, and all should benefit from this early bye to learn from their experiences so far and get ready for what lies ahead.
"This is a really good time for us," Carroll said. "It's a good time for us to come back with new perspective for the young guys where we can kind of go back to talking about what they've accomplished and how far they've come along. Really, to me, there's so much focus on those guys and their ability to contribute as we move forward. I think this is a really good stopping point for us in that regard. We'll certainly zero in to try to help them continue to develop. It's so important for us to get those guys where they're part of it, and it'll be such a factor to us once we get to the midpoint of the season hitting the second half."
The reasons for optimism are clear for the Seahawks, especially with the defense coming off a performance that featured three takeaways, a franchise-record tying 11 sacks and limiting the Giants to a single field goal. Obviously not every game will look alike, but the steady run defense through four games, the increasingly affective pass rush, the play of Witherspoon in his first few games, and the return of Jamal Adams are all reasons to believe that Seattle's defense is trending in the right direction. And on the other side of the ball, the Geno Smith offense has been very good early on despite considerable injuries on the offensive line. Once that unit starts to get closer to full strength, and when Smith-Njigba gets more involved—something that only feels like a matter of time before it happens—things should only improve on that side of the ball.
Carroll pointed to the play of the offensive line, which in the second-haff featured four backups along with starting center Evan Brown playing out of position at left guard, as well as the pass rush, before saying, "It just reminds us that we're just getting started, we're just getting going. We're just putting it together and a night like this for our defense to be able to play that that explosively, three turnovers and whatever, double-digit sacks – I can't remember seeing double-digit sacks."
Carroll says he's still kicking himself over the second half of the season-opening loss, but he has also seen in the last three games the type of second half, or in the case of the win in Detroit, overtime finishes he expects out of his teams.
"We screwed up the freaking second half of the first game and I haven't forgiven myself for that," he said. "The Rams have done a nice job since then, they've played good football. But we just didn't play the second half like all the rest of these halves. This is the way we are supposed to finish, and we just didn't do it, so I am going to be kicking myself for that one, but there are a couple teams that are 4-0 and it's really close."
Check out some of the best action shots from Week 4 at the Giants at MetLife Stadium on October 2, 2023. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery.