RENTON As bad as Sunday in Green Bay was for the Seahawks -- and it was indeed putrid, the most lopsided defeat in six years, one Pete Carroll said on Seattle radio “looked like garbage” -- Monday back at team headquarters dawned the realization Seattle still has every realistic playoff goal within its grasp.
"We have a lot of good things ahead of us right now and we have to make sure we do it together and we get together," he said. "We went at that immediately. Whether that will crystalize into something, this is a very tight team already, a very close group with really solid leadership and direction from the locker room. I know that those guys know what’s at stake and know how we want to go about this.
Here is what is at stake: The Seahawks (8-4-1) need one win over the final three regular-season games to win the NFC West for the third time in four seasons. The first chance to clinch the division is Thursday night at CenturyLink Field against Los Angeles (4-9), which fired coach Jeff Fisher on Monday.
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"Owning the division has been something for a long time, first off. It’s the first thing that you get a shot at and we want to focus at what’s closest at hand," Carroll said. "Also, when you win the division, you play a playoff game at home. This is such a decisive advantage, we feel, to play here and play in front of the 12s. It’s worth fighting for every step of the way and it’s worth focusing on. That’s the first thing that we look at."
But there’s more at stake than that foregone conclusion of the division title.
The Seahawks are a half game behind North-leading Detroit (9-4) for the conference’s No. 2 playoff seed. The top two seeds get a first-round bye and second-round home game. Sunday’s loss dropped Seattle into the third seed, which would mean a first-round playoff game on wild-card weekend and then on the road for the rest of the postseason.
Yet the odds are in the Seahawks’ favor to reclaim the second seed.
Seattle’s remaining games after the Rams are at home against Arizona (5-7-1) on Christmas Eve and at San Francisco (1-12) New Year’s Day.
Detroit’s final regular-season games are at the New York Giants (9-4), at Dallas (11-2) and home against the Packers (7-6) winners of three straight while trying to catch the Lions in the North.
So the Seahawks are still in a favorable spot to get the number-two seed.
Then again, another face-plant and Atlanta (8-5) or Tampa Bay (8-5) could push Seattle to the fourth seed in the NFC.
Even after Wilson’s career-high five interceptions at Green Bay on Sunday resulting in Seattle’s worst margin of defeat in six years, the Seahawks are 16-4 in Decembers since Wilson became their quarterback as a rookie in 2012.
Is that the bank from which these Seahawks will draw during this short week before the game against the Rams, then in the final two regular-season games into the playoffs?
“Let’s wait until we get through December,” Carroll said.
“This game (at Green Bay) didn’t really add to the good stuff that we’ve built up over time. But I’m counting on us playing really well. We have two great opportunities coming home here.”
No matter how it felt Sunday night and Monday for Seattle – and you – it could be oh, so much worse.
The Rams fired Fisher a day after their 42-14 home loss to Atlanta. Los Angeles’ fourth straight defeat started 42-0. Fisher was 31-45-1 in three games short of five full seasons with the Rams. He was one loss from the NFL record for coaching defeats. The Rams’ loss Sunday was the 165th of his career, tied with Dan Reeves for most coaching losses in NFL history.
The Rams promoted special-teams coach John Fassel to interim head coach. He’s been an assistant with the team for five seasons. Fassel’s task is to keep the players and team together in it over the next three days to be competitive against the Seahawks.
"You couldn’t have had more challenges, continuity and being settled and all of that. They faced so many issues with the move and all of that, I don’t know how to equate it," Carroll said. "It’s rare when this happens. I’m sure it’s been difficult for them, going into a new stadium and new setting and all of that. Imagine all of the families have to move, they have to figure out how to relocate and they’re all over the place with where camp was and where they hold up now.
"It’s just been as difficult and challenging as it could be. No wonder it’s been hard."
Yet the Rams have beaten the Seahawks three consecutive times. That includes Sept. 18 in Los Angeles, a 9-3 win. Seattle had Wilson severely limited by a high-ankle sprain, lead rusher Thomas Rawls out with a cracked fibula, Tyler Lockett exiting with a sprained knee, Doug Baldwin having trouble breathing following a hard hit and former fill-in runner Christine Michael losing a fumble in Rams territory on the Seahawks’ final offensive play to seal the galling defeat.
EXTRA POINTS: DE Cliff Avril, asked Monday about the accusation from Packers G T.J. Lang that Avril punched him below the belt during Sunday’s game: "Who’s that?" … The Seahawks will practice Tuesday, a normal off day, and Wednesday. … Carroll said rookie RB Troymaine Pope has "a pretty significant ankle sprain" on the same right leg he had a sprained ankle last month. … Backup LB and special-teams player Brock Coyle (foot) "has a chance" to play against the Rams, Carroll said. DE Damontre Moore (foot) is unlikely to. … Will Tukuafu is still in concussion-treatment protocol, making it likely Marcel Reece will be the fullback for the second consecutive game on Thursday. Reece played 12 snaps at Green Bay five days after signing with the Seattle. The former University of Washington wide receiver deftly improvised his route on Wilson’s scramble to the deep sideline for a 31-yard gain late in the first half.
▪ Here is all Carroll said Monday:
HEAD COACH PETE CARROLL
December 12, 2016
(Opening) “In our world here in Seattle, Monday and Tuesday have flown by, it’s Wednesday. We are off and running and putting in the game plan, getting ready for a short week with the Thursday night game. It was a very difficult game last week which was a long time ago. We’re going to do everything we can to bounce right back, get on track and do the things that we need to do to play good football. There were some uncharacteristic stuff that happened, so we’ve turned our focus immediately to the game that’s at hand, just like you would expect us to and we’re going for it. This is a big opportunity for us, we’re really excited, we realize that there’s a lot at stake with every one of these games, as it has always been, but now you know you have a chance to make some noise in your division. We’re going to see if we can play some really good football and do the kinds of things like we like to. On we go.”
(On what caused Russell Wilson to struggle on Sunday) “We really didn’t throw the ball as well as we like and had trouble catching the ball, too. We had both issues working at us and our efficiency was way down.”
(On why Russell Wilson struggled after having a strong previous week) “The ball couldn’t have bounced better for the other guys by our being off a little bit, and they took full advantage of it. I really think that, I know you guys want to focus on a lot of stuff that maybe we don’t want to mess around with because we need to move on. The ball didn’t go right for us. We overthrew a couple times when guys were open, when balls got knocked around they went right to them. They did a great job to make their picks and control the football game. When you turn the ball over like that, nothing feels right and you don’t have chance to get anything accomplished. I know you want to know reasons, I don’t know, that’s the way it went. We’ve been together for 5 years now and I haven’t seen anything like it. It was a pretty unusual occurrence and I want to credit to those guys. I think Green Bay did a great job and were on spot and did what they needed to do and played a flawless game.”
(On whether the team went over film from yesterday) “No. We’re going on. We really don’t have time. We have to go.”
(On if they would normally show film heading into a Thursday Night game) “Same thinking. Everything has to be accelerated, we got to crank it right up. There’s times when we would show highlights and stuff when we can, but there’s not enough of them to worry about right now.”
(On Jeff Fisher being relieved from duties as head coach of the Rams) “That’ll make for a big story. Jeff has been in the league for a long time, battling. That’s tough news. I can’t even imagine what that does for those guys, in terms of turning the corner and getting moving ahead forward. I’m sure that they’ll do it and John [Fassel] will do a good job of directing that. He’s a terrific coach. That’s a big transition. They’ve kind of been a team in the midst of a lot of transition with their move and all the things they’ve gone through. This is kind of more of it.”
(On whether head coaches reach out to each other when there is a coaching change) “Sometimes, it depends.”
(On if he will reach out to Jeff Fisher) “Not yet.”
(On if a blow out loss may bring the team closer and more focused) “It may. The strength that it takes and discipline it takes to get focused and get it turned around right now is really something we have to feed off one another. We have to work together to do this. That was immediately the message in the locker room right after the game. We have a lot of good things ahead of us right now and we have to make sure we do it together and we get together. We went at that immediately, whether that will crystalize into something, this is a very tight team already, a very close group with really solid leadership and direction from the locker room. I know that those guys know what’s at stake and know how we want to go about this. They know what the message is to their teammates and how they want to lead in the proper direction. This is one of those things you’ll look back at and see but I don’t know that right now. We’re always trying to capture the teachable opportunity to make sure that we’re maximizing our chances to get better and stronger and see more clearly. We’ll see what happens.”
(On the importance of winning the division title) “Owning the division has been something for a long time first off, it’s the first thing that you get a shot at and we want to focus at what’s closest at hand. Also, when you win the division, you play a playoff game at home. This is such a decisive advantage, we feel, to play here and play in front of the 12s, it’s worth fighting for every step of the way and it’s worth focusing on. That’s the first thing that we look at.”
(On if he’s glad they have a shorter turnaround until the next game) “It absolutely feels like that. That was the sense we had in the locker room. That’s exactly the thought and we’re kind of happy to have it come. Both teams are at the disadvantage of the short week, so we compete every step of the way to get on track as fast as we can to put together a great game plan. There’s no time. We don’t get to sit on what happened one way or another, win or lose, and we have to turn it. We’ve done that quite decisively I hope so we’ll see how we take to that.”
(On if Russell Wilson’s issues were similar to those in the Tampa Bay game) “Not necessarily, I don’t think it was the same. I thought it was different. I thought our protection was better in this game. We had more space and all that. We didn’t control the ball flight. It didn’t go where we wanted it to go as much as we like and we didn’t catch the ball as well as we normally do and there was enough of those plays, when the ball got turned over, that it really made it difficult.”
(On if he would consider replacing Jermaine Kearse with Tanner McEvoy or another wide receiver) “We’re competing all the time. We’re trying to get the best guys in the best opps and situations. Jermaine has been a really good player for us and he busts his tail everyday that he’s with us. We’re just trying to get connections and do things right. We’re always competing. If you watch, we always mix our guys, they’re all playing and being a part of it. There’s no clear statement to be made to satisfy your question there, no.”
(On Tanner McEvoy) “He’s doing well. In his opportunities he’s doing quite well. He’s made the most of his plays. He’s had very few really good shots, even when we gave him a chance to throw the ball he did a nice job, so there’s some playmaking there. He’s an exciting young man coming up. He has an unusual body, he’s really big over 6’5” and all that, so he’s got some special qualities.”
(On Marcel Reece) “He did fine. He didn’t play a lot of plays but he did fine in the opportunities that he had. He gave us some stuff that we kind of like, we couldn’t see a lot of it in this plan, but we’ll be able to use him in quite a number of ways.”
(On having only one sack in the last three weeks) “I’m disappointed in that because our numbers were rolling just before in the last few weeks. In this game, we tried to keep him in the pocket and we did and he hung around and made the most of it. He did a great job, talking about Aaron [Rodgers]. We were surprised coming out of the game that we weren’t able to get him down. We got him once. We felt we were going to be able to get to him with that thought. He did such a great job of throwing the ball, just the subtleties of his movement and finding space and time. He had a tremendous night. I am concerned about that. We would like to get those numbers back to going like they were. Just a week ago we rushed really well against Carolina and caused the quarterback to have a lot of problems and throw the ball quickly and all of that. The sacks aren’t always the indicator, how the QB performs, but last night Aaron Rodgers pretty much did what he needed to do and we weren’t able to offset that at all.”
(On the footing of the field) “It was relative, both sides. I don’t think it was that big of a change. When you’re pushing on something and the ground isn’t as secure, it’s a little more difficult. Particularly, we were trying to keep him in the pocket and all that. I thought it was okay, the cleats, the footwear and all the stuff matched the situation and it was alright. It wasn’t a factor.”
(On if the Rams look the same with Jared Goff at quarterback) “They’re pretty much doing the same things that they’ve been doing. They’ve asked him to spread the ball around, he’s doing all the stuff, the quick game play action stuff. He’s done all the kinds of stuff they’ve been doing over the last few years. It’s pretty similar.”
(On the Sounders parade tomorrow) “I wish I could go. A normal Tuesday we might have been able to make it. That was a fantastic game, just as dramatic as it could be and guys coming through. That was really exciting. We got a chance to watch that so that was a thrill.”
(On if having a lot of young players affects their ability to move on after a loss) “I don’t think so. You’re right, we do have a lot of young guys, but that’s not been a factor and I don’t think this game all the sudden opens that up. I don’t feel like that.”
(On Thomas Rawls adding to the running game) “It’s been a month of a big turn from what it was. Thomas really ran hard again. We feel like we could really find the balance that we like, obviously we have to take care of the football better, but we made a big move in that regard. We have to keep going, keep pushing it.”
(On Troymaine Pope) “He’s got a pretty severe ankle sprain.”
(On if that’s the same ankle sprain Troymaine Pope previously was suffering from) “Yes.”
(On if there were any new injuries out of yesterday’s game) “No.”
(On if Damontre Moore and Brock Coyle have a chance to come back for Thursday) “Damontre doesn’t look like it, Brock has a chance. It’s an unusual week, we’ll see what happens. We won’t be really able to test them like we’d normally like to. Brock has a chance. He was kind of close last week so we’ll see what happens. I don’t have that for sure yet.”
(On their strong history of December play) “Let’s wait until we get through December. We’ll see what happens, see how we play here through the whole month. This game didn’t really add to the good stuff that we’ve built up over time, but I’m counting on us playing really well. We have two great opportunities coming home here, we’d like to get back on track.”
(On the Rams’ season) “You couldn’t have had more challenges, continuity and being settled and all of that. They faced so many issues with the move and all of that, I don’t know how to equate it. It’s rare when this happens. I’m sure it’s been difficult for them, going into a new stadium and new setting and all of that. Imagine all of the families have to move, they have to figure out how to relocate and they’re all over the place with where camp was and where they hold up now. It’s just been as difficult and challenging as it could be. No wonder it’s been hard.”
(On Will Tukuafu) “He’s still in the protocol as of today. He hasn’t returned yet.”