At 6-4, Seattle is in a good position to make a run at a playoff berth, or perhaps even an NFC West title over its final six games, but the work on that important finish to the season will begin next week, not over the next few days.
That's a bit different than what head coach Pete Carroll did in each of his first two seasons in Seattle when he had his team practice early in the week before taking some time off, and the reasons for a longer break are twofold. First off, Carroll wants his players to get a break in order to let their bodies recover. The Seahawks had their bye in Week 5 two years ago, and in Week 6 last year, so asking players to get in a few extra practices was reasonable. But having played 10 games in as many weeks, players at this point would almost certainly benefit more from extra days of rest than a couple extra practices.
"We're going to really try to rest and rehab and get well," Carroll said. "When we get back from work a week from today, we'll have almost everybody, so that's a really good note this late in the season. ... I think we've got a chance to get everybody back."
That "everybody back" should include linebacker K.J. Wright and left guard James Carpenter, who both sat out Sunday because of concussions. Carroll said if Carpenter is ready to go, he'll go back to being the starter at left guard after John Moffitt filled it for him in the past two games.
But this break is about more than just rest. Carroll is also comfortable letting his players go for a week because he likes the growth he has seen from his team. No, the Seahawks aren't perfect, particularly away from CenturyLink Field, but they are clearly a better, more well-rounded team than those of the previous two years.
"I do feel good about where we're going," Carroll said. "We have worked really hard and the guys have performed very consistently, they've done everything we've asked them to do in terms of the prep and the focus and bringing it week in and week out. I trust that they understand that. Now we do have to see how we respond to the break, but the motivation to me is that I believe these guys get it and they understand what we're trying to get done. Now we'll have to prove that by how we perform next week."
Not only are the Seahawks winning more often than in the past, they've been very close in every loss, which was hardly the case over the past few seasons.
"I'm disappointed in our play on the road that we didn't find a way to get a couple more of those wins," Carroll said. "We've been in every one of them, and we understand all of that. I think we've been very consistent, I think we understand what we're trying to do. We're clear on the kind of mix that we want run and pass wise, we're clear on how we want to game-plan defensively, special teams has been really solid. We're getting harder to beat."
Carroll has been particularly encouraged by his team's play late in the game in each of its last two victories. Against Minnesota and New York, Seattle won the time of possession battle in the fourth quarter by a whopping margin of 24:15 to 5:45 and outscored the Vikings and Jets 17-0. In each of those wins, the Seahawks went for it on fourth-and-short late in the game not because they needed a score, but because Carroll wanted to see his team run out the clock without giving the ball back to an opponent.
"The highlight to me is that we again finished really well," Carroll said. "We had the ball for over 12 minutes in the fourth quarter (against the Jets) and ran the football like crazy and owned it and scored a couple of touchdowns too, and finished really well, the way that we like to. That's a couple of weeks in a row of really good solid ball, playing in the formula that we like to play in."
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