Pete Carroll met with the media on Wednesday ahead of his team's first practice for Sunday's Week 14 matchup against the Ravens in Baltimore. Here's three things we learned from the Seahawks head coach:
1. Thomas Rawls Has Exceeded Expectations
Earlier this season, as rookie Thomas Rawls first started to emerge in place of injured starter Marshawn Lynch, Carroll was proud to point out he was a strong supporter of the running back from the beginning. But now that Rawls is averaging an NFL-high 5.6 yards per carry and has topped 100-plus yards in four of his six starts, including a 209-yard record-breaking performance in a Week 11 win over San Francisco, Carroll admitted the Central Michigan product has blown away his own high expectations.
"Oh yeah, he has," Carroll said. "His consistency. You don't know how a guy's going to fit in and all that, we could see the style, we just didn't know if it would carry over. We were just real excited about what we thought was his nature as a runner and he's answered that perfectly. His attitude, which we didn't know as well as we know now, is fantastic about being a running back in a tough running system. He can't get the ball enough and he's going to keep bringing it. His ability to come back week after week after week, he's starting to document that. He's having a great season, he has a tremendous rush average for us, and he keeps bringing the attitude.
"So I can't tell you I knew that, we just wanted to see it. But he's really done everything we could have hoped for at this point."
Rawls did lose a fumble early in the team's 38-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings this past weekend, but Carroll said nobody on the Seahawks sideline wavered in their support of Rawls after that play.
"You can watch him the next couple carries," Carroll said of Rawls, who finished the game with 19 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown, an effort that has him up for Rookie of the Week at NFL.com. "He's in traffic, that ball is tucked away and perfectly protected. He's got great habits about it. We just moved right on through.
"We trusted that he would come right back, and he did."
2. Seattle Is Taking Baltimore As An Extremely Difficult Opponent
All 12 of Baltimore's games this season have been decided by one score or less, with its largest defeat coming in Week 7 against the Arizona Cardinals, 26-18. The Ravens have been on the losing end of eight of those 12 contests and carry a 4-8 record into Sunday's meeting with the Seahawks as a result. The way Baltimore's season has gone, coupled with the Seahawks' slow start, is part of the reason why this weekend's matchup was flexed out of primetime into a 10 a.m. PT timeslot.
Regardless of the Ravens' record, Carroll said he sees an opponent "that has had an unbelievable season demonstrating toughness and grit" in everything they've faced.
"We see them, Baltimore, as a very tough football team and very able to do whatever they need to do to get a win on any gameday," Carroll said. "We feel good about where we're going and what we're doing, but we do see a very tough opponent coming up here."
This week's game against a Ravens team with a below-average record will put Carroll's treat-every-game-like-a-championship-game mentality to the test.
"They're game-ready," Carroll said. "They can withstand anything now. We're going to take them as an extremely difficult opponent. We see that on film and that's the way we're going about it."
3. Russell Wilson Is The Best He's Been In Seattle's System
For the first time in a long while, a question was asked about Russell Wilson's lack of height, which was one of the lone knocks on Wilson heading into the 2012 draft. But with the 5-foot-11 quarterback seeing success throwing from inside the pocket the past three weeks, when he's completed 59-of-69 passes (85.5 percent) with 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions on those throws, Carroll was asked to explain how Wilson has been so productive playing around offensive and defensive linemen measuring much larger than himself.
"He's had a knack throughout his career," Carroll said. "We went back before the draft and tried to figure out is he going to get a lot of balls knocked down. He had huge offensive linemen at Wisconsin, so that wasn't a factor. His numbers were nowhere near an alarming number, I think he had five or six or something knockdowns in his senior season, which was better than a lot of other guys that were coming out. He does it because he understands how to connect through the available passing lanes and he has a real good sense for that, and when he doesn't he'll move and do something, so that's not even an issue.
"Every quarterback gets some balls knocked down, he's no more than anybody else, so that's because he has a sense and a knack and he knows when to and when not to."
Carroll said Wilson's recent success from inside the pocket is what the Seahawks saw in him from the start.
"When you watched him in college he was terrific in the pocket, so we never had any expectations that he wasn't able to do that," Carroll said. "He had a great offensive line at Wisconsin, they protected the heck out of him, they had a great offensive team and all that and he took full advantage of it. It's why I've said this, and maybe you guys have been discouraged by the comments about it, but I think he's had this ability all along, and he's demonstrated at times.
"I think he's the best in our system he's ever been and he's shown that through the offseason and gave us that thought that he was really in command of the offense and he knew where everybody's going and all that the best that he had at any time before. The ball just seemed to come out when we gave him the chances. What we've done is we've just zeroed in on stuff to make sure that we can maintain that rhythm that keeps the pass rush from being a factor, and he's done really well with it, obviously."