As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll held his usual Monday press conference via zoom from inside the team's indoor practice facility at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, receiver Tyler Lockett was running on the field not far from his head coach.
Lockett, who had surgery on a fractured hand last week, was back with the team Monday, and while his status for this week is still uncertain, Carroll said the veteran receiver is hoping to play.
That and other takeaways from Carroll's Monday presser following his team's Week 16 loss in Kansas City.
1. Tyler Lockett wants to play this week, but it's too soon to know if that will happen.
Following Lockett's surgery last week, Carroll said there was a chance the receiver could make it back for Seattle's Week 17 game against the Jets, and while it's too early in the week to know if that will happen, Carroll isn't ruling it out, and noted that Lockett is still hoping for that outcome.
"I don't know that yet," Carroll said when asked if Lockett could play this week. "I know what he wants to do, he wants to play, so we'll see… He needs to find out, is he comfortable with being able to catch the football and hang onto it and all that kind of stuff?"
Carroll also noted that a player with Lockett's experience and understanding of the offense could theoretically play even if he doesn't practice all week and only goes through the team's walkthroughs. The key will be for Lockett to show he's comfortable catching a ball so soon after surgery.
"He does not need to necessarily practice. If anybody could go through the game plan in the walkthroughs and all that kind of stuff, because he won't miss any of that; he can run around. The question will be what it feels like to catch football and hang on to it. We're going to take all the time that we can, so we might not know that answer until way late in the week, but he'll be ready to go otherwise as far as the game plan."
As for the rest of the injuries, Carroll said it's too soon to know much about any of the players trying to make their way back from injury.
"We'll go through tomorrow and see how everything goes," Carroll said. "We got banged up a little bit and we've got to see how these guys respond and if they come back. Also, we're concerned about the guys that missed, Ryan (Neal) and Al (Woods) and of course Lockett, we'll have to see how those guy do. I don't have a bunch of updates for you."
2. Tariq Woolen made "another remarkable play."
In the first quarter of Saturday's game, there was a moment when Chiefs receiver Justin Watson looked to have Tariq Woolen beat, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes noticed, unleashing a deep ball that looked well-placed for Watson to run under in the middle of the end zone. What Watson and Mahomes weren't accounting for, however, is that even when Woolen looks like he's beat, he isn't really, not with 4.26-second 40-yard dash speed.
Woolen not only caught up to Watson before the ball arrived, he was able to undercut the receiver and nearly intercepted the pass, still breaking up what looked moments earlier to be a sure touchdown.
"The distance that he makes up in the last 20 yards to make that play—and you guys handle on the ball too—it's just another remarkable play," Carroll said. "There's quite a few of them during the course of the year, that's why he's been recognized as he has as a Pro Bowl guy. He's just made a ton of plays, and there's so many more out there for him too, which is what's so exciting about that. I can't wait to see what he's going to do next."
3. It was a collective effort to get the run game going in the second half.
The Seahawks had struggled to run the ball in recent weeks heading into Saturday's game, and at halftime those issues seemed to be continuing, with Seattle rushing for only 26 yards on 11 carries, including 16 yards on nine carries from Kenneth Walker III.
In the second half, however, Walker ran for 91 yards on 71 carries, giving him 107 for the game and his first 100-yard game since a Week 9 win over Arizona.
As Walker noted after the game, he was reminded at halftime that he needed to run more decisively, and that was definitely a factor, but Carroll also credited the job done by the line and the rest of the blockers for leading the turnaround.
"We played really well in the second half at the line of scrimmage," Carroll said. "There have times, where a guy gets beat, or there is a stunt that happens that gives them a chance. It has been a problem though, it has been an issue, for me in particular, that we're allowing penetration. That wasn't happening at other times earlier in the year. We feel pretty good about it, and we are making some progress this week. The first half though, there were two or three plays that got away from us."
As for Walker's role in the change, Carroll said he talked to the running back about being more decisive and running downhill, but noted there's a balance to be had there in terms of getting Walker to take what's available on a given play without taking away his big-play ability.
"He's an incredible player, and we have to allow him to be instinctive, or you're going to make him like everybody else," he said. "So we have to find the fine line, and then we have to coach him too, we have to help him."
4. The defense had a good day despite the end result.
While the Seahawks aren't going to feel satisfied with any loss, they can at least take away from Saturday's game the fact that their defense continues to show signs of improvement in recent weeks. Most notably, the Seahawks held the Chiefs to season-lows in yards (297) and first downs, and they forced four three-and-outs, with Kansas City matching its season high with six punts.
"There was a lot of that, it was obvious," Carroll said of the defensive improvements. "We held them down pretty well on third downs, explosives, and total yards. It was a good all-around day for us on defense where we had a chance to be in this ball game. We needed to score some points to make it happen, but guys played well and did a good job of containing the top offense in the league.
"I think we matched up well and things fit well that guys carried over and executed well. We didn't have a lot busts. There were a couple of plays where are tackling wasn't good, but overall, our tackling wasn't bad in this game. That all helps."
5. The third down struggles started on earlier downs.
A big factor in Seattle's offensive struggles Saturday was a 2 for 14 day on third down, and while there were third-down plays that could have been executed better, the bigger factor, Carroll noted, was what was happening on first and second down, leading to so many third-and-long situations that are very difficult to convert in the NFL.
"The issue was about first and second down, really," Carroll said. "It's making those situations shorter so that they facilitate converting. Six of them or something were third-and-10 or more, and that's just asking a lot. Look at the odds around the league, what does it take to convert? It's hard, the numbers totally go in favor of the defense."