RENTON — After giving up 200 yards on the ground to the St. Louis Rams, the Seattle Seahawks defense vowed last week to clean up their mistakes.
But on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team averaging 93.6 rushing yards per game, came to Seattle and rushed for 205. So what’s going on? How does a defense that allowed just 30 yards on the ground against Arizona, and 66 the week before that, suddenly look so vulnerable over the next two weeks?
“We were sloppy in our run fits again, unfortunately,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said after studying the game film Monday. “We missed some reads on a couple of new plays that they ran — they did a nice job changing it up — we weren’t as sharp and the ball got out on us. A couple of defenses we were trying to pressure, we got hit when we were trying to pressure and we didn’t execute the run part of it well. We were just off a little bit and we have not fixed it in these two weeks. Obviously with that many yards being run, we’ve got to keep working hard at it. It’s a big, dedicated effort, because we don’t want to go that way. … We’ve got work to do. We’re a work in progress. It’s not a completed piece of furniture yet. We’ve got a lot of work to do to build it up.”
Not a lot has changed in Seattle’s defense from a personnel standpoint — though middle linebacker Bobby Wagner did come back from an ankle injury, pushing outside linebacker Malcolm Smith out of the lineup at a time he was playing very well. So this isn’t a case of injuries taking their toll. Carroll instead thinks it’s just an issue of players not staying disciplined in their run fits. And until the Seahawk prove they can get back to stopping the run, they know teams will try to establish the ground game rather than throw at one of the NFL’s best secondaries.
“It’s a copycat league,” safety Earl Thomas said Sunday. “Until we show that we can stop it, they are going to keep coming at us like that. So we definitely got to really key into the little details and get back to the run-stopping, pass-stopping defense that everybody is so accustomed to seeing.”
And Carroll being Carroll, the Seahawks coach can put a positive on his defense’s recent struggles. After saying his defense is a work in progress, Carroll was asked it was odd to say such a thing about an 8-1 team.
“No, I think it’s a beautiful thing to say,” he said. “I’m glad I’m saying that right now in a sense, because we have a lot of stuff ahead of us that we’re going to have to get better to handle and to deal with. We don’t want to peak too early.”
Seattle’s run defense, after a strong start, is at anything but a peak right now. And even if it takes longer than they had hoped last week, the Seahawks plan on fixing it.
“I think we’ll get decidedly better,” Carroll said. “We’re really tuned in, the players take a lot of pride in it as well, and we all have to do better, from myself on down. We’re going to work really hard to get that done.”
In addition to the concussion suffered by center Max Unger in Sunday’s win, the Seahawks also found out later that defensive end Red Bryant was dealing with concussion symptoms as well.
Unger left the game in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Lemuel Jeanpierre, while Bryant did finish the game. Given that players have to go through league-mandated protocol to be cleared for concussions, a process that takes much of the week, Carroll said they’ll have to prepare this week as if they won’t have those two key players.
“We need to do that,” Carroll said. “We have to get Lem ready to play, and that’s how we have to think about it. We have to think Red might not be able (to play), because we won’t know until Thursday likely, it might be all the way to Friday, so we have to plan like those guys aren’t gong to be there
Percy Harvin wrote on Twitter Monday that his tank is on “supa full” and that he’s “getting very, very close,” but Carroll said the receiver isn’t likely to make his Seahawks debut Sunday in Atlanta.
“I’m not counting on that,” Carroll said.
Harvin has to be activated off of the Physically Unable to Perform list next week, 21 days after he returned to practice, meaning he’ll count towards the 53-man roster whether he’s ready to play or not beginning with Seattle’s Week 11 game against Minnesota.
Quarterback Russell Wilson took a beating Sunday, and Carroll said his quarterback was banged up after the game, but none of the hits Wilson took should limit him this week.
“He’s banged up, but he’ll be OK,” Carroll said. “We think we’ll put together a good week, and we’ve just got to do a better job of keeping him clean. … We’re planning on practicing him.”
Tackles on track
Carroll said once again that the plan is to have injured tackles Breno Giacomini and Russell Okung both return to practice this week. Okung, who is on the injured reserve/designated to return list, is not eligible to return until the Nov. 17 game against Minnesota, and while Giacomini is on the 53-man roster and eligible to play at any time, Carroll said that’s not likely to happen this week.
“It’s not likely he’ll be ready to get back,” Carroll said. “It’s a lot to ask of him in one week’s time on the practice field. We’ve got to take a couple of weeks, really get him solid, get his legs under him and see where he is.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.