A day after the Seahawks' 30-27 road victory over the Carolina Panthers, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll met with the media to discuss his team's performance in a win that improved the Seahawks' record to 6-5 and strengthened their playoff chances.
"There's a lot of stuff that we need to take out of this game in a lot of areas," Carroll said. "We saw it as a real great matchup and battle. We like the win because we respect Carolina and the way that they play and their style and the way that they've been playing at home and all of that—it allows us to take a look at this game. We knew that they were good. We were fortunate to get a win and get out of there. It's just another one for the books for us in Carolina and all that… It was a good win and on we go."
Here are six things we learned from Carroll's Monday press conference:
1. The development of young players will be key to what the Seahawks hope will be a strong finish.
While it wasn't the case last season when the Seahawks struggled down the stretch, they have in the past usually played their best football in December. And if they're going to build off of this current two-game winning streak and finish the year strong again, Carroll says a key to a strong finish will be the way young players continue to progress.
"The one area—it's carried over from years before too—that I've thought of is that our young players are committed too early, and by the time that we get to the halfway point, they get better," Carroll said. "And you get now into the last four games and the fourth quarter of the season, and they're better. That helps you in more than just the fact of their play, but also play more and allow other players to get some breaks and rotate and stuff like that. I think it keeps us strong. And Russell (Wilson) has been such a good finisher. You look at his games and you look at his numbers in the fourth quarter and the fourth quarter of the season and stuff like that, his performance has been really stellar as we go down the stretch and that's important too."
As a result, Carroll said the coaching staff and players are "all over this topic" when it comes to getting young players ready to handle the stretch run.
"It's so crucial that we're on the right vein here with how we approach the games that are coming up and the finish to the year," Carroll said. "That's why I'm so tuned into the finish of these last few games. It looks like we're gathering our poise about us and executing like we want to at the finish which, to me, are microcosms of the big picture. We try to use the same mentality about finishing really well and being poised and trusting that you're prepared and you're ready to finish. If you've gotten to the point where the games are at hand right now, then you've done well. Just got to keep doing it. Doing right longer is a really important aspect to finishing and that's something that we're trying to teach constantly. It goes back to April, about finishing the drills, finishing the work, finishing the study, finishing the film work that you're doing. In all ways, I think you can practice a mentality of focusing well. We'll see what happens. We're going to need it. It's a long haul here."
2. Three-on-one isn't a problem for Bobby Wagner.
Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner had yet another big performance Sunday, recording a team-high 11 tackles, including a crucial stop of Cam Newton on a fourth-down run in the red zone. The Panthers actually gained 8 yards on what might have been Wagner's best play of the game, but Wagner limiting that gain to only 8 yards demonstrated his considerable talents. On the first play of a second-quarter Carolina possession, Newton found Christian McCaffrey on what looked like a perfectly set up screen pass. When the running back caught the ball, he had three blockers in front of him, with only Wagner standing in the way of a potential huge gain. Yet somehow despite being outnumbered, Wagner slipped through the blocks and tackled one of the league's most elusive backs, setting up a Panthers three-and-out.
"He felt he had the advantage, it was only three," Carroll joked. "That was an incredible play. That was an incredible play against a great back that has all of the cuts and all of the instincts and all of that. I don't know how he pulled that off but he did and at the time, it was a big, big play. I don't know how many other people noticed that, but we certainly appreciated it and you guys do too, I guess. That was incredible instincts because he had to set it up. He had to make it happen with what he had to work with, which he was really at a disadvantage."
3. Carroll is fine with Carson hurdling defenders, but he wants to see the fumbles cleaned up.
Chris Carson pulled off one of the plays of the week against the Panthers, turning a hurdle attempt of Panthers safety Eric Reid into a front flip on which he somehow stuck the landing after Reid upended him in midair. Carson said after the game that he's done trying to jump over defenders, but Carroll isn't bothered by his running back taking that risk.
"No, I don't mind," Carroll said. "Go for it. I like the mentality that it takes to do that, it's why he is the way he is. He's been in the air before—not quite like the one he had (against the Panthers). He realizes that he still has to control the ball all the way throughout. He never has planned, I'm sure, to flip. It looked like he had been working on it to tell you the truth. But, no, I don't mind. I don't want to hold him back, I don't want to inhibit him—let him go."
What Carroll does want to see change, however, are Carson's two fumbles in the past two games. Carson lost a fumble in last week's win over the Packers, then had the ball knocked out for another fumble on Sunday, though that one went out of bounds.
"There's some coaching there too, there's some stuff," Carroll said. "He kind of lost track of the guy that attacked the ball, but that can happen other times too and he was a little loose right there. There's some definite coaching. We coach that as hard as we coach anything in our whole program."
4. The Seahawks are still looking to clean up the mistakes on run defense.
Carroll was quick to give credit to McCaffrey and the Panthers for their play on offense, but as well as the Panthers offense functions, the Seahawks still don't feel like it's acceptable to give up 220 rushing yards and an average of 8.1 yards-per-carry.
"We made a lot of errors," Carroll said. "It's concerning because we're not a real complex system. I talked a lot about the discipline of it. It's experience, you know. Playing this system without K.J. (Wright) in the lineup—K.J.'s played these guys a lot and he and Bobby, they really have intricate roles, and it showed up. There was some errors and some misreads and stuff like that that hasn't happened in years past. But I don't want to take anything away from (the Panthers), those guys were on it. It was a beautiful game plan they had—a nice job with their quarterback and McCaffrey, they did a great job."
5. Seattle's pass protection played a big role in the offense's big second half.
With the Panthers doing a good job slowing Seattle's running game, the Seahawks had to lean on their passing game, and Russell Wilson and his pass-catchers came through in a big way, producing 339 passing yards and two touchdowns. But it wasn't just the players throwing and catching the ball that made those big plays happen; it also took a strong effort against a good Panthers pass rush, and Seattle's line held up well after giving up two sacks early, keeping Wilson clean the rest of the game.
"(Wilson) had really good protection throughout," Carroll said. "They caught us with a couple pressures and we missed a couple—we tried to do something we shouldn't have done and we got caught. They pressure a lot. They're one of the more committed teams in terms of numbers, so they're going to hit some once in a while. Their guys are really good, so they make good use of the heat they bring. Really, we could've had a really good game pass (protecting) if we (didn't make) the couple mistakes that we made. (The Panthers) make that happen too, that's a good team that makes that happen to you."
6. Doug Baldwin showed "he's an extraordinary competitor" and other injury updates.
Doug Baldwin didn't practice Wednesday or Friday last week due to what Pete Carroll called a "legit" groin pull, and was listed as questionable for the game, but he not only played Sunday, he played 90 percent of Seattle's offensive snaps, the most of any receiver, and caught five passes for 39 yards—and he should have also had a touchdown catch in the second quarter, but Wilson just missed Baldwin high on a throw in the end zone.
"I can't imagine that he's not sore," Carroll said. "It's extraordinary that he played. He had a groin pull that was legit and he just managed it and made it through the week. I don't know anybody that's played with a pull like that and he just could do it. You've got to treat each guy and he's an extraordinary competitor."
Carroll said the only injury of note to come out of the game was a sternum injury that knocked fullback Tre Madden out the game after he helped set up a touchdown with a 28-yard catch and run to the 1-yard line.
"We'll see how that goes," Carroll said of Madden. "Otherwise, we've got to wait a couple of days to see how guys come back. Nothing out of the ordinary."
Linebacker K.J. Wright, who has not played in the last two games, "is still working at his rehab," Carroll said. "He's got a process he's working on right now. No updates about the timing of it."
Carroll said J.D. McKissic could be added to the roster this week after returning to practice last week. McKissic has been on injured reserve since the start of the season because of a foot injury.
"There is a chance, yeah," Carroll said. "We'll show you what we're thinking here during the week. I'm looking forward to him coming back."
Game action photos from the Seahawks' 30-27 win against the Carolina Panthers in Week 12 of the 2018 NFL season.