In his post-game scrum Sunday with the media, Pete Carroll was a tad saltier than most of his players had been on the field.
“You guys will write whatever you think is going on,” said the Seahawks coach, “but you don’t know.”
Probably true. But that isn’t the question.
The question is what, if anything, Carroll and his staff know about one of dorkiest games the Seahawks played during his tenure.
The Seahawks (1-2) in his time have played numerous contests that were worse than the 30-17 loss (box) at Minneapolis in the Vikings’ home opener at their indoor audio riot of a stadium. The Seahawks held an early 10-point lead and finished with 389 yards of offense, no turnovers, two sacks and four penalties, and the defense held the Vikings to field goals in their final three possessions.
Nothing Carroll said suggested he had diagnosed anything fundamentally awry with the Seahawks, other than as the game wore on it became clear they had little chance to win.
That’s what makes it so dorky. They did a lot that amounted to little.
He did say this about the defense: “We threw (at the Vikings) all the stuff we’ve been working on.”
Obviously, little of it was much good. So it is plausible to ask: What does he know?
Given the breadth and depth of the experience of Carroll and his staff, they get the benefit of the doubt in knowing their stuff. After all, a year ago, the Seahawks began the season with a defense that at mid-season was on a pace to be the worst since the dinosaurs went up against the asteroid. But by season’s end, the Seattle defense had been transformed into one of the NFL’s best.
So it’s possible to consider they may have some solutions. It’s also fair to consider this statement from Mike Zimmer, who as Vikings coach had been 0-7 in his match-ups with Carroll:
“It’s the best offensive performance that I’ve seen in the eight years that I’ve been here.”
And that was without Dalvin Cook, their sensational running back who sat out injured.
The Vikings, behind the oft-besmirched QB Kirk Cousins, had 453 yards of offense and was a Wilsonian 30 of 38 for 323 yards and three touchdowns. Cook’s backup, Alexander Mattison, rushed for 112 yards on 26 carries. These virtues combined to allow the Vikings to convert nine of 14 third downs and possess the ball for almost 36 minutes.
The numbers led Seattle CB D.J. Reed to offer a conclusion that was elegant in its earthy simplicity:
“They out-schemed our ass.”
What that means is the Vikes, once they evaluated the Seahawks’ start that provided two touchdowns and a field goal in their first three possessions, developed a counter for almost every maneuver. That’s how a winner can run off 23 consecutive points against an offense that a season earlier scored the most points in club history.
Getting out-schemed is an outcome that rests with the coaches.
Once Seattle’s PK Jason Myers went wide left from 44 yards in the second quarter, ending his team-record 37 consecutive field goals, the Seahawks never made it past the Minnesota 41-yard line. They had 81 yards in the second half.
The Vikings are good; they lost their first two games by a combined four points. But not THAT good.
How could an offense led by Wilson, Chris Carson (80 yards and a touchdown in 12 carries) and arguably the best receiving tandem in the NFL, be shut down in the second half so comprehensively?
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Carroll said. “Part of it is opportunities (four second-half possessions). We got to stay on the field. When the defense is giving up first downs and the offense didn’t convert them, it’s just out of the balance.
“(The Vikings) didn’t do anything different, and we didn’t do anything different.”
They just had different results.
Late in the game, Wilson was clearly agitated over the shortcomings, as well as a post-pass shove from Minnesota’s Everson Griffen, which drew a 15-yard penalty. That gave Seattle a first down at the Vikings’ 41-yard line. On first down, Wilson was sacked. Then he ran for four yards, threw deep and incomplete to DK Metcalf, who was fouled but drew no flag, and on fourth down heaved a moon ball into the end zone toward WR Penny Hart that fell incomplete.
The sequence was was a tidy summary of the day’s futility.
Post-game, Wilson had calmed down and returned to his patter of resolute positivity.
“We’re a good offense and we can do a lot of the great things,” he said. “It’s going to be challenging sometimes. You’re not going to be able to score every single time, necessarily.
“I think that we just have to stay the course.”
Wilson isn’t going to allow himself another public outburst of honesty again. He saw in February where that got him. Besides, with the exception of the cornerback position, the weakest link in 2021, there’s not much in the way of personnel changes that are likely to be difference-makers.
They have the talent to be far better. But they need to find a way to stay the course while keep their asses from being out-schemed.
Since the next two opponents are the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams, we’ll find out what Carroll knows.