DETROIT—Even though the Seahawks have a 4-3 record, putting them very much in the midst of the NFC playoff picture, and even though they’ve built that record while playing five of those seven games away from CenturyLink Field, Pete Carroll can’t say he’s satisfied with where his team stands following an impressive 28-14 victory over the Detroit Lions, not after the Seahawks lost two close games to open the season to put themselves in an 0-2 hole.
Carroll is, however, very excited about the direction his team is headed after winning for the fourth time in five games, this time over a talented Lions team that, like Seattle, was coming into the game having won three of four, including wins over New England and Green Bay.
“I’m always going to regret the fact that we started lousy,” Carroll said. “And it’s a 14-game season for us to try to do something with it after screwing up the first two games. But this is a nice team, I like our team. I like what’s going on, I like the way it’s going and I like how they feel about it. It’s really clear, there’s no mystery how we’re trying to get it done. We’re not going to fool anybody.”
When Carroll says they’re no mystery, he’s referring to the winning formula the Seahawks have discovered since that 0-2 start, one that has been the calling card of all of Carroll’s best teams. The Seahawks are winning this season because of a physical and productive running game, they’re winning because Russell Wilson and his weapons in the passing game keep making big plays—Seattle had seven explosive passes (16-plus yards) on Sunday, and Wilson had a perfect 158.3 passer rating after throwing for three touchdowns and 248 yards on just 17 pass attempts.
The Seahawks are also winning because their defense is still playing at an incredibly high level even after some significant offseason departures, and they’re winning because they’re playing well on special teams, and as significant as any of that, they’re winning because they’ve been great in what is arguably the single most important statistical category in football—turnover differential. Following Sunday’s win in which the defense had two takeaways and special teams had one, and in which the offense had a turnover-free day for the fourth time in five games, Seattle is now plus-10 in turnover differential.
“Today’s game was a really good football game for us,” Carroll said. “We did well in so many different areas. On the road, against a team that’s been hot, had been running the football, doing some really good things. We were able to kind of change that climate for them. They weren’t running the football like they had just a week ago, they ran for a ton. Our guys went in to get that done. It was a good job by the coaches and a terrific job by the front seven guys again… We really were able to play right within the framework of how we want to do it. We want to get the football, we don’t want to give it up—no turnovers today—and take advantage of that and run the heck out of the football. We ran it 42 times today. Matter of fact, I couldn’t be more fired up about it. That’s just commitment and it’s attitude and it’s what we’re trying to do. So, I’m really fired up about really this whole month plus, and hopefully we’ll just keep on cranking it and it’ll keep unfolding.”
That the Seahawks are winning after rediscovering their running game—they’ve eclipsed 150 rushing yards in four straight games and Chris Carson has gone over 100 yards three times this season—and with the defense playing so well comes as no surprise to anyone who has watched the Carroll/John Schneider era Seahawks. And for receiver Doug Baldwin, that formula is even more meaningful because that’s the style of play he has known throughout his football-playing career, from his youth football days with the Southern Youth Sports Association Tigers to Gulf Breeze High School to Stanford, winning a lot of football games along the way at all levels.
“You run the ball, you control the opposing offense with a stout defense, and you don’t turn the ball over, that’s successful football,” Baldwin said. “That’s the formula.”
Wilson, who has thrown 11 touchdowns and one interception over his past five games, has been saying since offseason workouts that this team reminds him a bit of the one he played on as a rookie when a young, relatively unknown nucleus blended with some experienced veterans to lead the Seahawks to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth in a year where few on the outside were expecting big things from a team that was coming off of back-to-back 7-9 seasons.
“I really compare it to 2012,” Wilson said. “It really reminds me of that year when nobody was really thinking anything. We were just young guys, great players, and veterans who played great. There’s nothing we can’t do, that’s what we believe.”
“It has been exciting to see what we’re doing, and you’ve got to enjoy the process. It’s a long journey, and got a lot more to do. And so we’re keeping our heads down and trying to be great every game.”
And while Wilson, who believes in an “ignore the noise” approach, notes he didn't hear any of the preseason talk about the Seahawks, other players are keenly aware of the fact that a lot of pundits predicted them to struggle in what some were describing as a “rebuilding” season.
“Of course,” Baldwin said when asked if he noticed that a lot of people were writing the Seahawks off before the start of the season. “If you’re human, you’re going to hear it. I’ve heard it, but I’ve heard it before. It’s no different than the negativity that has come before, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. We’re just going to go out there and have fun. That was the message from the beginning—let’s just make sure we have fun. If we have fun, everything else will come, and we’re having fun.”
And it’s not just the offense having fun and playing well of late. Seattle’s defense, which saw multiple Pro-Bowlers depart this offseason or have to sit out the year due to injury, then lost All-Pro safety Earl Thomas to a broken leg in Week 4, has maintained a very high level of play, ranking near the top of the league in points and yards allowed, as well as opponent passer rating. That group has also forced 15 turnovers—special teams added one more to the team’s total on Sunday—helping Seattle build that plus-10 turnover differential Carroll is so proud of.
“I’m really fired up to get to where we are and we’re close to the top of the league, which is good,” Carroll said of his team’s turnover differential. “We set our sights on being in double digits in game eight and here we are.”
Against the Lions, the Seahawks gave up a 91-yard touchdown drive on Detroit’s first possession, but after that the Lions didn’t score again until the fourth quarter when Seattle was ahead by three touchdowns. Seattle’s defense also sacked Matthew Stafford four times, a season high for the quarterback, and ended his streak of five straight games with a 100-plus passer rating. The Seahawks also shut down what has been a productive Lions rushing attack, holding rookie running back Kerryon Johnson, who came into the game averaging 6.4 yards per carry, to just 22 yards on eight carries.
Safety Bradley McDougald said Sunday’s performance by the defense showed, “We got grit. We got guts. First drive of the game they shoved it down our throat, 91 yards, they were all the way down the field, and after that we kind of buckled in, we kind of honed in. Everybody just went back to their responsibilities. We just started playing ball. You kind of felt the guys get settled into the game and once we did I felt like we imposed our will on them.”
The Seahawks still have a lot of games left to make this a successful season, and they’ll get back to work Monday hoping to keep their momentum going against a tough Los Angeles Chargers team that will come to CenturyLink Field with a 5-2 record. But after a rough start, the Seahawks like how they’re playing, and they have no plans of slowing down now that they’ve found that winning formula.
“We’re rolling,” Carroll said. “We’re jacked and we’re just going to keep on working and busting our tail and practicing really hard and not change anything. Just do exactly what we know how to do and come back have a 'Tell the Truth Monday' and we’ll get back on our way.”
Game action photos from the Seattle Seahawks' 28-14 win in Detroit in Week 8 of the 2018 NFL season.