Typically the previous game reveals much about the opponent’s status for the pending game. What Pete Carroll saw in the Tennessee Titans film from Sunday was borderline scary.
Not the Titans. The division-rival Arizona Cardinals.
“I was really attracted by Arizona’s play — they were spectacular,” the Seahawks coach said Wednesday of the Cardinals’ 38-13 win in Nashville. “On offense, they were all over the place, and did a million different things. Defensively, they created so many big plays right from the beginning. It was pretty well focused on (edge rusher Chandler Jones). He was unstoppable (five sacks). It affected the entire play of the Titans.
“Just overall, they got out ahead, stayed ahead, and just kept going. There was no fluke to that one, they played really great football. It was a hard day for Tennessee — they were down 17-0 in the first quarter. You have to give a lot of credit to the Cardinals.”
Give or take, a similar thing happened throughout the NFC West. The Seahawks went to Indianapolis and had a drama-free, 28-16 slap-down of a good Colts team, the 49ers in Detroit eased after a 38-10 lead and beat the Lions 41-33, and the Rams at home had their way with the Bears, 34-14.
No gambler ever became rich relying on info from week-one NFL results. But the 4-0 sweep did nothing to diminish the widespread belief that the NFC West is a football Mordor.
“It’s going to be really hard,” Carroll said. “The division started on fire, and good. They have to play us and we have to play them. It’s going to make all of us better. The team that comes out and wins this division is going to be ready for whatever. We’ll be ready, so it’s good for us.”
Carroll wouldn’t be expected to say anything less about the competition. But all the noble-warrior rhetoric flies in the face of the fact that one of the keys to the Patriots’ dynasty was the persistent weenie-ness of the rest of the AFC East. Yes, the Pats still had to win those six games every season, but the road was never as chuck-holed as what the NFC West has offered its membership lately.
The Cardinals in preseason were the universal pick to finish last in the division, and they pounded an 11-win playoff team with the NFL’s second-most yards a year ago, one that traded in June for star WR Julio Jones.
So egregious was the takedown Sunday that Titans coach Mike Vrabel, still irked Monday, profanely called out Jones for a drive-killing penalty for unnecessary roughness.
“That’s absolutely nothing that we coach or we teach,” Vrabel told reporters. “So that would fall under the category of doing dumb shit that hurts the team. Right there in bold letters.”
That should make for a cozy locker room in Nashville this week.
Fortunately for the Seahawks, they don’t have to face Arizona until Nov. 21, and they do have a counter-punch to the rage that likely will accompany the Titans to the Loo Sunday — a sellout crowd for the first time since 2019.
When it comes to inducing fan participation, Carroll is the NFL’s most evangelical coach. Imagine the reverend’s dismay at the covid-induced absence of a congregation.
“It was so uncomfortable last year to not share the experience with them,” he said. “The game has always been where we do it all together. To know now that our fans get to come take part in it, is a big deal.
“It’s way different than it was a year ago. We have such a special relationship with the 12s and the following around the Northwest. It should be really exciting. We have to play good football so we make it the kind of stadium that it can be. We take responsibility for that.”
No NFL coach says stuff like that. Especially at his age. Carroll turned 70 Wednesday, certainly a milestone for curmudgeonhood if he wanted. He doesn’t want.
“I thought about this in the middle of the night — it’s not very often that you get to have a press conference on your birthday, so thanks for bringing that up,” he said, grinning. “I feel great.”
Then he explained his gratefulness.
“People would ask, ‘Why did you come here?’ I didn’t know at the time really, but I do know now,” he said. “This is an amazing place to work, and to represent. I’m very grateful for this opportunity to work with this franchise, for the Allen family and their support, for the fans. Everything that we are doing here is really just as good as I hoped.”
He’s 1-0, 70,000 will be at his work party Sunday, and the opposing coach just connected one of his best players and the phrase “dumb shit” in the same public sentence.
Life is good when 70 is the new 50.