One day and a lengthy film review later, Pete Carroll was still jazzed over his team’s record-setting steamrolling of the New York Giants.
“Really liked this game,” the Seahawks coach said Monday, one day after Seattle (6-3) set a team record with 350 yards rushing in its third consecutive win, 38-17. “This game really shows some really strong traits about competitiveness and toughness and finish, stuff that we really take a lot of pride in.
“I think we take three weeks here in a row that we really are pleased with the progress we’re making.”
They are going to need even more of those traits and that progress for this weekend’s rugged test at Kansas City (6-3). Especially after Monday’s news that run-stopping, blocker-devouring defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is out indefinitely with a “really legit” pulled hamstring, to use the coach’s words.
“He’s out for a while,” Carroll said.
That means likely also next week’s game at home against NFC West-leading Arizona (8-1).
The Chiefs have the NFL’s fifth-ranked rushing offense at 135.8 yards per game behind All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles and a big, plowing offensive line.
But strong safety Kam Chancellor and outside linebacker Malcolm Smith are returning to practice on Wednesday, Carroll said. Each has missed Seattle’s last two games with groin injuries.
Chancellor in particular is a thudding force against the run, though he has also been playing with bone spurs in his ankles. It’s becoming apparent that the Seahawks held Chancellor out of the last two wins over Oakland and the Giants to get him ready to play these next six games. After the Chiefs and Cardinals, the Seahawks play Thanksgiving night at San Francisco then at Philadelphia, home against the 49ers and at Arizona.
Carroll said Bobby Wagner will begin running this week for the first time since he got a turf-toe ligament during the loss to Dallas on Oct. 12.
“Bobby’s taking a big step forward. We’ll find out what that means,” Carroll said.
“Bobby will have a really active workout all throughout this week.”
Still, it seems unlikely the middle linebacker will play at Kansas City.
“We’re dying to get him back out there. He’s a legit championship, starting player but we will see how it goes,” Carroll said. “Getting Malcolm back is a boost to us, gives us some flexibility and some things that we can do. But we would love to get Bobby back out there.
“He’s getting close.”
Seattle has been using usual outside linebacker K.J. Wright and, for the last two starts, undrafted rookie Brock Coyle at middle linebacker while Wagner has gone in the last month from crutches to a walking boot to now poised to run.
Rookie linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis has emerged in the last three games as a speedy pass rusher and coverage man all over the field in nickel packages. As impressive as the fourth-round draft choice has been lately, Carroll said the Seahawks want to keep Pierre-Louis’ role limited to the five-defensive back packages for now so as to not overwhelm the rookie.
James Carpenter is “a long shot” to play at Kansas City, Carroll said, because of the ankle he sprained in last week’s win over Oakland. That means Alvin Bailey is likely to start again at left guard. The second-year man had perhaps his best game as a Seahawk yesterday filling in for Carpenter and blowing Giants off the ball.
Tight end Zach Miller will miss his seventh consecutive game Sunday. Miller had ankle surgery in late September and his recovery has gone far more slowly than the team expected. It doesn’t sound like he’s coming back anytime soon.
With Luke Willson spraining his ankle and third tight end Cooper Helfet having a sore knee, Carroll said former Chiefs starting tight end Tony Moeaki is going to be a big part of this week’s game plan. It will be his Seahawks debut.
Moeaki signed as a free agent five days before the Giants game but was inactive for it because he wasn’t well enough versed in the playbook.
“It was exactly that,” Carroll said. “We looked at Will (Tukuafu, the 285-pound fullback who signed recently and impressed Sunday) a week ago, and tried to fit him in at one week’s time. There’s so much to ask these guys to fit in and play football.
“As it turned out with Luke getting hurt, I wish we’d had them all up of course. But Tony will be right in the middle of it this week.”
The Seahawks are truly right in the middle of it this week, too, with the first of six games that will define their season.
Asked about the treacherous journey ahead that includes five division games over these last seven weeks of the regular season, Carroll grinned and joked, “What do you mean?”
“Kansas City, this situation of playing these guys, if you look at the numbers they’re really effective in a lot of critical areas; they’re really a good team,” Carroll said. “If they were undefeated right now, the numbers would support that.
“Quarterback (Alex Smith) is good. The running back (Charles) is good. Their defense is good.”
The Chiefs are No. 1 in the league in pass defense, second in scoring defense and tied for third in sacks.
“So we’re just going to take care of that one first,” Carroll said. “The fact that we have all the division games coming up in the scheduling is really exciting. It leaves everything out there for you and we’ll see how that goes when the time comes.
“But Kansas City is attracting our focus right now. The rest of the schedule isn’t.”