By John Boyle Herald Columnist
RENTON— Two things become abundantly clear when you hear Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson talk about the team’s offense.
They know the offense can be better, and yet at the same time, they’re not really worried about the offense.
Despite the fact that the Seahawks won for the 14th time this season and are one of the final four teams standing, there has been a considerable amount of hand-wringing over Seattle’s offense, which has been rather pedestrian ever since the Dec. 2 win over New Orleans that saw Wilson put up some of the best numbers of his young career.
Since that 34-7 victory over the Saints, the Seahawks have averaged 20 points per game, and Wilson has thrown for more than 200 yards just once. In Saturday’s divisional-round win over the Saint, Wilson completed just 9 of 18 passes for 103 yards.
And you know what else? The Seahawks won, and are now one more home victory away from the Super Bowl. That’s not to say the offense and Wilson can’t improve. He knows he hasn’t been at his best of late, nor has the entire offense — though the running game was awfully good Saturday.
But the reason Carroll isn’t worried about his offense is because he never expected to coach a team that threw for 300 yards a game and scored at will. That’s never been his version of winning football, nor will it be even as Wilson continues to develop as one of the league’s best young players.
“I think he’s doing great,” Carroll said when asked to assess his quarterback. “I think he’s doing what we need to do in these games. We can always do better. He’s very concerned about leading us in the way that keeps our philosophy intact, which is take care of the football, and he’s done a great job of that. He’s done that all year long. We’re always looking for more and he is too, but as long as our football team is playing well and we’re playing within the formula and we’re playing good defense, we’re running the football, we’re playing on (special) teams, and we’re taking care of the ball and getting it, we’re going to have a really good chance to win, and that’s what’s most important to us.
“It’s not about the stats and all that. We didn’t put a lot of yards against these guys when we played them at home and we didn’t put up a lot yards against the Saints to get our win. That has nothing to do with what’s important, as far as the game is concerned.”
In other words, Carroll is reminding you that this is who they are. It’s who they will continue to be.
Think of it this way. With what you’ve seen out of Seattle’s defense this season, knowing the Seahawks had a 16-0 lead at halftime Saturday afternoon, and knowing how awful the conditions were, what kind of chance would you give the Saints of scoring the necessary 17 points, minimum, to win that game? About the only way the Saints were going to score three times was if the Seahawks helped them in the form of a turnover or two. So if you look at the game in that light, do you really want Wilson throwing the ball around on a sloppy, windy day?
Wilson wants to be better, he’ll undoubtedly lose sleep over the passes he has missed in the past month. But what he also knows all too well is when Carroll has his defense playing like this, what is just as important as the plays a quarterback makes are the mistakes he doesn’t.
That’s doesn’t mean Carroll has Wilson playing scared. A scared quarterback doesn’t check to a deep pass down the sideline on third-and-three with his team protecting a fourth-quarter lead, as Wilson did when he recognized that the Saints were bringing an all-out blitz that would leave no safety help. But Wilson also knows that the Seahawks are a complete enough team that he doesn’t always have to carry the load.
“I never played scared; I never have, I never will,” Wilson said. “I always try to make the smart decision and keep the play alive, but also salvage the play if it’s not there. … There are certain games you can lose because of the situation and because of the other factors that are going on. So with the wind factor this past week, especially in the third quarter, we played it really safe, really conservative. A lot of my throws I tried to keep down just to make sure the ball didn’t sail on me. We won a great game, it was a great matchup against a very good football team.”
Maybe the Seahawks will need more out of Wilson and the offense this weekend. Or maybe they will if they get to the Super Bowl where they would be facing a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady led offense. And when that day comes, Wilson and Carroll are confident the offense will be up to the task, even if the numbers tell a different story over the past month.
“There’s definitely room for improvement, especially on my part, and that’s the thing I look forward to every week,” Wilson said. “I always think I can get better, and there’s tons of throws in there I know I can make and I know I will make, so I have no worry about that. The ultimate goal is to win football games and to be explosive and make the clutch play when we need to make the clutch play. At the end of the day, when you’re playing in the playoffs, everything’s not going to be perfect. You’re playing another great football team, so it’s going to be a battle back and forth.”
The Seahawks offense hasn’t been great over the past five weeks, but Saturday’s win, and Carroll and Wilson’s reaction to it, are a good reminder that may not matter.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org