Though it’s not obvious to all, Pete Carroll can feel “the turn.”
On defense, he sees his previously stagnant Seahawks flying around again. Sees them attacking the ball and rushing the quarterback and, finally, simply getting after it.
While much of the Pacific Northwest was grumbling Monday over the Super Bowl champions beating the winless Oakland Raiders by a mere 30-24 the day before, Carroll was characteristically buoyant.
At least about half of Sunday, anyway. The first half that ended with the Seahawks up 24-3. That was before an avalanche of mistakes on Seattle’s special teams and mixed-and-matched offense allowed Oakland to score two touchdowns in the third quarter to make it a game.
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“This was the closest, we thought, to really being on it, the start of this game,” Carroll said Monday. “I just really loved the way we played the first half, the energy. Loved the way our defense played. Our defense has started to play well the last couple weeks. … We’ve had some turnovers we’ve gotten the last couple weeks, which has really changed us.
“It’s really exciting to see that and turn at the half(way point of the regular season). We wanted to see if we could make a little move here. And it feels like we have.”
The biggest, most impacting turn of all may be to the team’s health. Carroll finally got to talk about injuries in the additive — rather than reductive — sense Monday.
The coach said the Seahawks (5-3) have a good chance of getting at least four starters or contributors back from injuries in time for Sunday’s home game against the New York Giants (3-5).
Carroll called that nothing short of “amazing.”
And it’s oh, so needed.
Center Max Unger’s sprained foot continues to improve; he was dressed Sunday for the Oakland game but did not play. He was active only because the Seahawks already had designated seven other injured players off the 53-man roster as inactive and there was no room to make Unger inactive.
Carroll said that’s the first time in his three stints as an NFL head coach at New England, the New York Jets and now Seattle where he had more injured players than spots to list them as inactive for a game.
Strong safety Kam Chancellor missed his first game Sunday since 2011 with a groin injury. He also was technically “active” but didn’t dress. Left tackle Russell Okung has a chance to start this week after missing the Raiders game with a strained calf. And nickel back Jeremy Lane is eligible to come off Seattle’s injured-reserve list with a designation to return, so he can play for the first time since he strained his groin in the Sept. 4 opener against Green Bay.
It will take a roster move of releasing someone currently on the active roster this week for Lane to play against the Giants.
Carroll also said reserve safety and special teams player Jeron Johnson is likely to play this weekend after missing the Raiders game with a concussion. Backup defensive tackle Jordan Hill is readying for a return from a sprained ankle.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (turf toe), tight end Zach Miller (ankle surgery) and cornerback Byron Maxwell (calf strain) are the starters who are apparently going to be remain out against the Giants this weekend. But Carroll said Wagner and Miller have improved more rapidly in recent days than previously.
Left guard James Carpenter was in a walking boot Monday to protect the ankle he sprained against Oakland. Carroll said he doesn’t not yet know how long Carpenter will be out. Alvin Bailey, who started for Okung against the Raiders, could play guard for Carpenter provided Okung does return. Stephen Schilling could play guard, too, though the Seahawks like him more at center. That’s where Schilling would start for the fourth time in five games this weekend if Unger doesn’t return, though it sounds as if Unger will.
Fourth-stringer Patrick Lewis started at center against the Raiders because Schilling had a sore knee that Carroll said is better now. Schilling entered in the third quarter against Oakland to “settle down” a makeshift line that at that point included college tight end Garry Gilliam at guard, former defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy at another guard, second-year man Bailey making his first regular-season start at left tackle and rookie Justin Britt at right tackle.
No wonder Carroll is so buoyant about getting some guys back this week.
“It’s a big turn. It depends on how much good fortune we have, but we will have four guys back, likely, that will be ready for us this week and we could have eight,” Carroll said. “It’s amazing it could be like that.
“Pretty realistic we’ll get four guys back.”
Carroll attributed the second half to so many fill-ins on the offensive line — communication issues and missed assignments with Lewis making calls at center, for instance — and on special teams. That was particularly true on the punt team that had a Jon Ryan boot blocked and then allowed a long Raiders return to set up a second Oakland touchdown in the third quarter.
As for Russell Wilson and the offense, Carroll had a fitting comment about that them from the Raiders game.
“The offense survived the game, basically,” he said.
Behind all the issues up front against Oakland, Wilson completed 17 of 35 passes for 179 yards and no touchdowns. It was just the sixth game of his career in which he completed less than 50 percent of his passes, and the seventh time he didn’t throw a touchdown pass.
“I didn’t think I played well at all, for whatever reason. And usually I’d know why,” Wilson said. “Usually, I know why if something is off, footwork-wise or whatever. That’s usually something I try to find out, throughout the game, so I can adjust. I felt like I was in it. For whatever I was trying to do, it just wasn’t working.
“But I think the thing is, we won the game, and that’s the exciting part. I know that I can play better, I know that I will play better. I know that our offense will play better, and so that’s what I look forward to.”
Carroll isn’t worried about an off day behind a makeshift offensive line from his quarterback whose completion rate was above 70 percent for the season a few weeks ago.
“He had a normal person’s day,” Carroll said.
“We survived the game. We got through it. And the quarterback didn’t get killed. And on we go.”
So, hey, there’s that.
“We’ll be better. We’ll be better this week,” Carroll said. “We may end up going with the exact same guys that we ended up with (Sunday), you know. We’ll figure it out this week.”