Pete Carroll is in his sixth season leading the Seahawks. He is 64 years old.
Not the “80 years old, 70,” that All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas said his coach was this part week. But old enough for Carroll to get regular questions on how he keeps his approaches and messages fresh enough for his players to stay engaged and motivated.
His latest way came Saturday night inside a large meeting room here at the Hyatt Regency.
The night before each game Carroll shows the team an inspirational video produced by his staff. Before Sunday’s test at NFC North-leading Minnesota he showed the players the highlights of their best college plays.
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They absolutely loved it — then went out and smashed the previously 8-3 Vikings by 31 points for their third straight win.
“He said that we’re still the same player that we were in college, and said that we’re going to make the same plays in the NFL that we did in college,” Thomas said. “It’s a child’s game and we just have to continue to enjoy it.”
Oh, they did that on Sunday.
Thomas was salsa dancing after his first-half interception. Michael Bennett was doing two hip thrusts — three will get him fined by the league, he’s come to believe — following his sack. Richard Sherman was tapping his wrist as if wearing a watch as Doug Baldwin returned to the sidelines following the second of his two touchdown catches.
And the locker room’s walls were shaking from the rap music blaring following the 38-7 victory that wasn’t that close.
Carroll also changed things during the players’ preparation for Minnesota last week.
Baldwin said, while refusing to divulge details, the way the coach practiced and prepared the Seahawks for this game has revolutionized the previously uneven season.
“It was definitely noticeable,” Baldwin said. “Yeah…”
Carroll said Friday: “We adjusted the tempo during the week, just to fit the needs of the players. We had a really high-spirited week. We’re ready to go, looking forward to the trip.”
He added it wasn’t just a normal, lighter December practice schedule without helmets near the end of a long season. Carroll said it was a special change for this game, but also wouldn’t detail what exactly was different.
It sure worked Sunday.
“You have to get your players to respond. You have to keep them motivated,” Thomas said. “I’ve been in this system for six years. Some of the philosophy gets boring. But when it comes to games and what he brings to the table, it’s always interesting.”
Seahawks All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner had said the key to slowing down NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson was each defender having the patience to stay in his assigned gap rather than chasing Peterson into others’ responsibilities — and thereby becoming exposed to the Viking star’s cutback runs.
That’s exactly what the Seahawks did to Peterson Sunday. They waited, and he smacked into them near the line of scrimmage, to match his nickname, all day. His 18 yards on eight carries was the third-lowest output of his career, and second-lowest since his rookie season of 2007.
“We were just disciplined: Let the plays come to you,” said Wagner, who had seven tackles. “Everyone was selfless and did their job.”
So was Wagner surprised his defense held Peterson, who had 1,164 yards through 11 games, to just 18?
“Nah,” Wagner said. “He could have had zero yards.”
In four career games against Seattle, Peterson has averaged 86.8 yards per game and two total touchdowns. His average for his 10-year career against the league is 98.7 yards.
CARY WILLIAMS IN SWEATS AGAIN
Cary Williams, the Seahawks’ starting right cornerback for the first 10 games, was inactive for the second Sunday in a row. It’s DeShawn Shead’s job now: Williams is making $3.5 million guaranteed this season to stand on the sidelines in sweats.
Shead’s coverage has been tighter, plus his recognition of route concepts and proper alignments in Seattle’s zone coverages have been better than Williams’ were. Shead, who has also played both safety positions and plays on every special teams unit, is also a sure tackler. His stop in the open field of Minnesota wide receiver Stefon Diggs for a 6-yard loss, with no one behind him down the right sideline Diggs was eying, was a prime example why Shead is playing and Williams isn’t.
Williams has two years remaining on the $18 million contract he signed in free agency last spring, but those seasons are not guaranteed. The Seahawks could save $3.8 million by releasing him prior to June 1, at a cap hit of $2.3 million for 2016.
REFESHING, GOLDEN-GOPHER FEEL
It was a refreshingly collegial atmosphere on the University of Minnesota’s campus for the game at new TCF Bank Stadium, which has a capacity of just over 50,000 — a departure from the usual packaged, grandiose vibe of a typical NFL Sunday.
The Vikings move into giant, roofed U.S. Bank Stadium downtown next season. It’s on the site of the old Metrodome, and on one end is shaped like the bow of a Viking ship. The Super Bowl will be played there in February 2018.
Thomas has four of Seattle’s nine interceptions that have come in the last eight games. Thomas’ career high for interceptions in a season is five (in his rookie season of 2010 and in 2013). … Seattle has five interceptions in its last two games. … After spending most of it in the 30 percent range for converting third downs, Seattle is now up to 42 percent for the season thanks to converting 24 of their last 40 third downs (60 percent). That’s just behind the offense’s 42.5 percent rate on third downs in 2014. … Not only did the Seahawks win by 31 over a division leader on the road in December, they had no new injuries in the runaway victory, Carroll said.