For the second time this season, the Seahawks hit the road for a game across the country. And once again, the Seahawks flew home with a victory in hand. Between social distancing, wearing masks and following the other COVID-19 protocols, road trips have become increasingly harder in 2020. After what Carroll described as a "challenging" first trip to Atlanta, the Seahawks' stay in Miami was well-executed.
"We killed it this trip – this was better than the first trip," Carroll said Monday. "One of the big aspects of it is meals and how you get food to the guys. Our people did a great job and it was so smooth. Can you imagine – they've got three meals a day plus a snack at night, everybody orders their own meal and everybody gets what they ordered. Just think about how complex that is to get that done – and you have to do it with spacing and the (COVID-19) procedures. Our crew just did it great. This trip was really good. At home and on the road seemed almost exactly the same, so that's really positive."
Here are seven other things we learned from Carroll's appearance on 710 ESPN Seattle:
1. The offense can still get better, and that's a scary thought.
The Russell Wilson-led offense is scoring at an impressive clip – 35.5 points per game is second to the Packers, who play their fourth game Monday night. Still, Carroll sees areas where the unit can improve. Sunday's game in Miami – where the Seahawks scored 31 points – was the lowest scoring output of the season.
"We can get so much better and we can do so many more things cleaner, but we really do have firepower," Carroll said. "The protection has given Russ a chance to stand back there and really see the field really well. He'll take you through three or four plays where he wishes he'd thrown the ball differently or to a different guy. But all in all, it's turned out that we're very explosive and we're efficient. The only number that's not staying up there is third down numbers. We're just not as good on third downs as we'd like to be, but as you've noticed we don't have as many (third downs). We have a lot of explosives happening on earlier downs. So, that's an area for us to continue to emphasize, but it is a fun group."
On third down this season, the Seahawks are at 38.5 percent (15 for 39), which ranks 23rd in the NFL. It's a small issue to nitpick, but that's pretty much all you can do when the team is scoring over 35 points per game. The Seahawks' 39 third down attempts are second-fewest among teams that have played four games, as Carroll alluded to the big plays on earlier downs.
2. Chris Carson is a perfect fit in the Seahawks' system – and he's "so darn tough."
There was doubt about whether or not Chris Carson would play Sunday after a tough hit forced him to exit early against Dallas. When he was listed as active, it was fair to question how effective he would be. Early and often, Carson put those concerns to rest, finishing with 80 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries (just one off his season-high).
"He really played well – he's just our style," Carroll said. "We love to see him make his plays and make his runs, and he's just got a way about him that we all really like. And he's just so darn tough, and he showed it. He said on Wednesday, 'I'm going to play. I'm going to play in this game.' We were all thinking otherwise, and he made it through the week. We were hesitant about it all the way until we saw him on game day. He pulled it off and played a good football game.
"Even though we're not running the ball as much as we have in the past, we're still running the ball effectively, and he's making the whole thing fit (on offense). We'll need that running game here going down the road."
3. The offensive line rotation was planned.
In general, offensive line groups thrive on continuity. The more time a unit spends together, the more effective it will become as it develops chemistry. At least three offensive lineman played 100 percent of the snaps in each of the Seahawks' first three games this season, but that number dropped to just two on Sunday. Why? It was all part of the plan.
"It was certainly the intent going into Miami because it was a messy day down there," Carroll said. "We tried to get everybody on the field and get everybody a chance to play, just to give us a break. When you do that, if a guy does tire out early on and (his backup has) already been in the game, then it's OK to put a guy back in. We just wanted to make the coaches feel comfortable about subbing and just work through it. I hope we can continue to do that in general just to keep guys fresh.
"You kind of get settled in to guys and you don't want to change anything at times, particularly on the offensive line. So I thought (O-line coach) Mike (Solari) and (run game coordinator) Brennan (Carroll) did a good job to feel comfortable about pushing those guys out there and they did fine. Cedric (Ogbuehi) did a good job and Jamarco (Jones) did a good job, and Jordan (Simmons) too. It was great that those guys got some playing time."
4. Even though it didn't work Sunday, expect more calls to go for it on fourth down.
The Seahawks had their first failed fourth down conversion of the season on Sunday, but don't expect that to discourage them going forward. Up 10-6 late in the first half and inside the red zone, Carroll could've sent Jason Myers out to extend the lead to seven. Instead, he trusted the offense, and although it didn't work out, it sparked a touchdown drive on the next possession.
"We're going to continue to look for those opportunities because we believe in our guys that they can pull it off and Russell can pull it together," Carroll said. "That's a big part of the thinking there, that we have guys who can make the plays. It isn't always going to work out, you know, that's why there's percentages. I like the attitude and I always like going for it. We won't do it all the time – we'll do it when it feels right and fits the situation."
5. Ryan Neal gets Pete Carroll and the staff fired up.
Ryan Neal proved Sunday that his game-sealing interception against the Cowboys was no fluke. Starting in place of the injured Jamal Adams, Neal intercepted his second ball in as many games. Later on, Neal blew up a screen pass, popping Myles Gaskin before the Dolphins running back could catch the ball.
"It fires us all up to see him come through like that," Carroll said. "He's such a hardworking kid. John (Schneider) found him on a preseason game somewhere when he was playing for Atlanta and we both liked him and said 'Let's get this guy in here.' He looked aggressive and looked like he had a confidence about him (in the tape). He's been working in the program, worked his way up, got a chance and has shined in the two chances he's had. He played really well yesterday. It wasn't just one or two plays, he played well the whole day in disguising and moving around and making his fits in the running game. I'm really fired up for him. He's a really smart football player, and that smarts gives him confidence and he plays with it."
6. Tackling isn't a major concern, but it's an area that needs improvement.
Following a trio of games allowing 25 or more points, the Seahawks' defense had its best performance of the season. Obviously 23 points isn't much less than 25 – it's the lack of touchdowns that stood out. The defense was often bent but rarely broke. After five field goals, the Dolphins scored their first and only touchdown with under two minutes remaining.
Carroll was definitive when asked if tackling was the biggest thing to clean up defensively.
"Always is. We had a couple of really shabby plays, stuff in the open field, but we're always working on it. We try to keep it under double digits, when we're single digits for missed tackles in a game that's pretty good. I don't know what our number (for Sunday) is yet, but we're always working on it.
"I would not be surprised if (the lack of preseason and offseason practice) is a big factor. There's a lot of loose yards happening around the league and defense is not doing as well. I keep thinking defenses are going to pick up just like we did this week. We're going to improve steadily here for a while and hopefully we find a really good groove, and I would imagine other defenses will be doing the same."
7. The Seahawks heard all of the 12s who made the trip to Miami.
It's obviously been a strange start to the 2020 season without you, the 12s, packing CenturyLink Field. But for the first time on Sunday, the Seahawks visited a stadium where a select number of fans are permitted. Unsurprisingly, 12s in Miami packed Hard Rock Stadium and made their presence felt all afternoon – and that wasn't lost on Carroll and the team.
"They let fans in at Hard Rock Stadium and we had a ton of 12s. They were there early and they were crazed and going nuts. So know that even though we can't have them (at home), the 12s can travel. It was really fun to have them. It's interesting to have even a small number of fans, it was a better part of the experience because someone was reacting. You could feel the natural reactions, and having our own fans out there was really cool.
"Maybe someday down the road we'll get a chance to do it (in Seattle). We have to do really well in the meantime so that we can earn our way to get our fans there."
The best photos from Week 4's Seahawks-Dolphins game at Hard Rock Stadium. Presented by Nesquik.