What Pete Carroll knew for sure Friday morning, while his star quarterback was in Los Angeles seeing a specialist about the damage to the middle finger of his throwing hand, was that he was pissed off. And not at Russell Wilson.
“We have to clean stuff up across the board so the same issues don’t show up,” the Seahawks coach said on his ESPN 710 radio Friday following the grim 26-17 home loss to the Los Angeles Rams. “When we’re really not doing well, is when you see the same problem continue to show. That’s something that pisses me off.”
Carroll privately can be as profane as the next person, but he’s careful publicly. A simple courtesy he has long practiced. So it’s a small marker of the football crisis in which the Seahawks find themselves that his guard is down.
Certainly his team is at a low point unseen since the Legion of Boom days, which have now faded into a dot in the rear-view mirror. Not only is his specialty, defense, giving up a league-worst 450.8 yards a game (the Buffalo Bills are No. 1 at 216.8), his best player may have an injury that could end his streak of consecutive games started at 149 when the the Seahawks travel to Pittsburgh Nov. 17.
“Russell’s never missed a football game in his life,” he said, “little league all the way through high school, in college, in the NFL for 10 years. He’s not missed a game. So this is a crushing development for him to have to deal with. He’s never been there. But he’s attacking it all, full on. If he could have thrown the ball last night, he would have. The (index and middle fingers) are where the control comes from, and also the zip.
“I don’t think Russell slept a minute last night in his efforts to try and get all the information he could get so that we can get things underway. He’ll maximize the opportunity to get back as soon as possible because that’s just what he’s always done.”
The league’s house organ, NFL Network, reported Friday morning that X-rays after the game Thursday showed no fractures after his hand was struck by the arm of Rams nemesis Aaron Donald as Wilson released a pass that was incomplete. But the absence of a break does not preclude surgery, which could mean an absence of several weeks.
The aggravating factor is that the injury was perpetrated by Donald and the Rams, against whom Carroll and the coaches have plotted since LA ousted them from the 2020 playoffs. A month after the 30-20 loss, Wilson for the first time in his pro career went public in interviews with grievances, including a persistent lack of pass protection that has him among the most sacked QBs in NFL history.
The play in which he was hurt was not a sack — he had two Thursday in three quarters — but was typical of the pressure the Rams bring that has helped allow them to own the Seahawks recently. Including the playoff game, the Rams (4-1) have won 10 of the past 14 between the clubs.
The off-season poaching of Rams assistant coach Shane Waldron by Carroll didn’t seem to have much impact Thursday. The Seahawks offense did manage 354 yards, but 164 came after backup Geno Smith took over in the fourth quarter. Operating without starting TE Gerald Everett (covid protocols) and starting RB Chris Carson (neck), the Seahawks went up-tempo with Smith and foiled the Rams defense for 10 points.
“We were going faster because we’re two scores down — that’s what you saw,” Carroll said. ” The defense plays differently in those situations. They’re trying to keep it from happening fast, so you can take advantage of that.”
It was the defense that irked Carroll. Defensive captain LB Bobby Wagner was in on only four tackles, DE Carlos Dunlap three. Even though the Rams had only two third-down conversions, one was the giant 68-yard pass and run to WR DeSean Jackson on the Rams’ first second-half possession. The former All-Pro, now at 34 a lightly used backup, went deep and then slowed to catch the under-thrown ball from QB Matthew Stafford, beating double coverage that included SS Jamal Adams.
“I think Jamal took off to guarantee that he wouldn’t get beat deep,” Carroll said. “The ball was well under-thrown. It’s a funky play, and unfortunately nobody else could help them. We had the guy double-covered and they made a huge play out of it. “
The Rams scored two plays later, and after forcing a three-and-out from Seattle’s offense, concluded the next series with a 13-yard TD pass from Stafford to TE Tyler Higbee against a familiar defender.
“Jamal gets a one-on-one routing and he gets beaten the corner,” Carroll said. Later in his morning-after presser at team headquarters, Carroll defended the work of Adams, the game’s highest paid safety.
“He’s doing a really good job,” he said. “He had a bunch of really good plays last night where the ball doesn’t get thrown because he covered the guy, and took the concept away. You wouldn’t even know. He’s doing some good stuff.
“He’s an effective and impactful football player, right in the middle of the fire on so many different concepts. He is right where the ball is going, so he has a lot of opportunities. You are not going to win all of those. He would be the first to tell you that he wants to play better.”
Carroll said in so many words that the defense lacks discipline, for which, as is customary, he took final responsibility for the giant numbers
“I don’t have an explanation for that, because if I did, I would’ve fixed it,” he said. “I’m really disappointed that we’re off to a start statistically that looks like garbage. We’re better than that.
“They’re not even coverage busts — it’s just execution. It’s just reading it right, staying where your supposed to stay in your fits and coverages, and the fits in runs. It’s just being more precise about it. I’m surprised we haven’t cleaned it up because we have experienced guys that understand, and coaches understand, so I’m not getting it done. Ultimately, I have to do a better job, and that’s what I’m saying. I have to make sure we make these corrections come to life, because we are addressing them. It’s a couple of the same issues we had a couple of weeks ago (against Minnesota).
“If you are looking for a falter, it’s not that. It’s the process that we have to get better at, so that it shows up on game day.”
And now he has to hope, for the first time in their careers together, that Wilson shows up on game day.