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Seahawks Mailbag: Prime-Time Success, Close Games & More

You had Seahawks questions; we have answers.

The Seahawks improved to 7-2 with last weekend's win over Tampa Bay, and up next is an NFC West test when they travel to the Bay Area to face the 8-0 San Francisco 49ers. A Monday night game means the practice week doesn't start until Thursday this week, which makes now the perfect time to answer questions from you, the fans. As always thanks to everyone who asked questions this week, and apologies if I couldn't get to yours this time around. And remember, you can now submit questions both by tweeting them to me (@johnpboyle) or online at Seahawks/com/SeahawksMailbag.

@thomsen_kirk asks if "Surely all the prime-time success can be attributed to witchcraft, yes?"

A: First off, don't call me Shirley. Secondly, as good as the Seahawks have been in prime time, no, it isn't witchcraft… At least I'm pretty sure it's not witchcraft.

The Seahawks are indeed a very good team in prime time, having complied a 27-5-1 record under Pete Carroll in those games, including five straight prime-time wins dating back to last season. One reason the Seahawks have been good in prime time over the last decade is that, well, they've been a good team over the past decade, so their overall success should translate to night games too. But there's no denying that the Seahawks' winning percentage is even better under the lights, which at first would seem to go against Carroll's philosophy of treating every game the same because every week is a championship opportunity. But what Carroll and his players have explained at various times in the past is that the "treat every game the same" approach actually does help in prime-time games. While some teams might spend the week hyping up a chance to have the national spotlight in prime time or face a division rival under the lights, Carroll won't let his players do that, and the way he sees it, that increases the chances that Seattle's opponent, and not the Seahawks, is going to be the team that is perhaps prone to making a mistake because players or coaches are trying to hard and making too big of a deal out of it. How does Carroll know this? Because as he has detailed on a few occasions, he was that coach once during his first season at USC, overhyping the annual rivalry game at Notre Dame to disastrous results, a loss that helped shape one of his coaching philosophies.

And if that surely/Shirley reference went over your head, you need to watch the 1980 classic comedy "Airplane!"

@Its_A_ccount asks, "Do the Seahawks actually plan on getting in these nail-biting finishes on purpose? Maybe as an exercise for close playoff games?"

A: No, the Seahawks aren't playing close games on purpose, but you're right that they've had a lot of them lately. Six of Seattle's seven wins this season have come by one-score margins, the 17-point win in Arizona being the only exception. But while those close games aren't intentional, Carroll does see value in them because players gain experience in closing out tough games, which as this question notes, can be crucial in postseason games should the Seahawks find themselves back in the playoffs for the seventh time in the last eight seasons.

"It's going to happen again, we're going to be in close games again," Carroll said after Sunday's overtime win over Tampa Bay. "But we're getting ready, we're getting ready for those games." 

@DavCarroll42 asks, "As it gets later in the season, how, if at all, do practices evolve. Are there fewer contact drills? Do players who aren't injured get rest days?"

A: This is an interesting question from David, and indeed practices can change as the season goes along, particularly if a team happens to be dealing with a lot of injuries late in the year. The current collective bargaining agreement states that teams can only have 14 padded practices during the regular season, 11 of which must come in the first 11 weeks of the season, so by rule there aren't a lot of super physical practices during the season, particularly over the final few weeks. But yes, there have been years where, as the season goes along, some practices, especially late in the week, take on more of a walk-through look than that of a full practice. And it's not unusual to see a few players at any point of the season, but especially late in the year, listed as not practicing or as limited on a given day for non-injury reasons. That's especially true of veteran players whose bodies might need a bit more rest, and who thanks to their experience can be ready for a game even with a day off here and there. 

@guillevz_ asks, "With Marquise Blair developing and Bradly McDougald being one of the leaders of the defense, how is Quandre Diggs going to fit into this defense?" Simon Bernhardsgrutter from St. Gallen, Switzerland also asks about Diggs, wondering if his return could mean more nickel defense for the Seahawks.

A: This will be an interesting one to watch unfold over the upcoming weeks. The Seahawks went out and traded for Diggs, which obviously means they think highly of him, but they also like the growth they've seen out of Blair, who has started three straight games, and McDougald has been one of their best defensive players over the past couple of seasons. Perhaps there's an odd man out in that trio once Diggs is fully healthy, or perhaps they rotate one of those three in with the other two starting, but a third option that could be intriguing is finding ways to use all three at the same time.

The Seahawks have used three-safety packages at times in the past, particularly when it was McDougald joining Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in a "big nickel" package. Diggs was a nickel corner with the Lions before moving to safety a couple of years ago, so he has the versatility to do different things, and Carroll always raves about McDougald's ability to do everything from play free safety to strong safety to cover receivers in the slot to playing in the box as a defacto linebacker.

Carroll hasn't said yet what the plan will be for Diggs when he's back, and it's unlikely he will give that away before Monday, but this will definitely be an interesting subplot to watch if Diggs is indeed active.

Ray Torres from Gilbert, Arizona and Jack Conrad from Yakima both ask about Jason Myers and his recent missed kicks.

A: Myers is coming off a tough outing in which he missed two field goals, including a potential game-winner, as well as an extra point, but Carroll made it clear after the game and again in his Monday press conference that the Seahawks have full confidence in the 2018 Pro-Bowl kicker.

"Our guys in the locker room really jumped to Jason after the game knowing that he had a tough day and made a point to him that we were there with him supporting him and knowing, just like everybody else makes mistakes in their jobs, sometimes it doesn't work out the way we want it to," Carroll said. "It doesn't mean that we're not caring for you and looking after you and counting on you. The communication I've had with him, he's ready to bounce and we're ready to bounce and we put what just happened behind us. Whether it was good or whether it was bad, we put it behind us, and we move forward. That's how we're going."

Asked more about Myers' misses, Carroll said, "I always go back to the mechanics of it. There are things that he wants to be really precise about. He's such a good practice guy in his drilling, his reps, his mentality, and his consistency is so good. That's why we talk like we talk because we know what he does on a daily basis. I think it's just turning the corner and hitting a better percentage in all facets of what he's doing. Why it went that one way in one game, I don't know. The body of work has been really good otherwise. We're counting on him to come right back to his strength."

@Lougheed_E @RoosaEddie ask about the addition of Josh Gordon and what that might mean to DK Metcalf's role?

A: The Seahawks added Gordon via a waiver claim on Friday, and since then Carroll has said on a few occasions that they aren't putting any specific expectations on Gordon until they spend some time with him.

"I'm telling you, I'm just waiting to see," Carroll said. "I've seen him on film. He looks pretty special. He has a good history of making plays and all that. I want to see him when he mixes with our guys and really just take it one step at a time with no expectations on how much he would contribute or play or whatever. I'm just going to see what happens."

Gordon is, as Carroll put it Friday, a "unique talent," but the Seahawks also know that with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf playing so well, they don't need to force the issue. So what does Gordon's acquisition mean for Metcalf and other receivers? Well that depends on how he fits in with his new team and how he performs. If Gordon is able to be one of Seattle's top three or four receivers, then yes, that will cost someone else playing time and potential targets, but the Seahawks also love what they have seen from Metcalf and know he's a big part of their future, so he'll be a big part of the offense going forward regardless of what happens with Gordon.

@Archos292 asks, "Are the Seahawks worried about their lack of sacks?"

A: Yes, the Seahawks absolutely would like to get to the quarterback more, but as of now they aren't panicking about it because, A. they still believe their pass rush will improve, and B. for the most part it isn't costing them games given their 7-2 record.

But yes, when Carroll was asked about Tampa Bay's success throwing the ball he pointed to a lack of pass rush being a significant factor, saying "We didn't disrupt him enough. He was too comfortable throwing the football. Normally when we have some big pressures, we cause him some problems. So it wasn't hard enough on him on this day."

So while Carroll and company aren't panicking about their pass rush, the Seahawks know they need to get better defensively to live up to their own expectations, and getting more out of the pass rush would go a long ways towards reaching that goal.

Gil Ledesma from Lynnwood asks about the passing yards being allowed by the Seahawks defense.

A: While the Seahawks have won their past two games, opposing quarterbacks have had more success than Carroll and his team would like. Some of that last week was really good receivers making plays, particularly Mike Evans, but to the point of the question above, a lack of pressure on Jameis Winston was also a factor.

"We struggled," Carroll said after the game. "We struggled quite a bit. We thought we would find more ways to get to the quarterback, and we only got him a couple times—crucial times, big plays when we got him. We knew that they would throw and catch the ball. We knew they could do that. They have terrific players, and they really chuck it down the field, and they take their chances. We thought we would make more plays on the ball as well… It was really just covering them or pressuring them, and we didn't get enough of it."

Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 9 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Eye on the Hawks is presented by Western Washington Toyota Dealers.

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