By Bob Condotta / The Seattle Times
RENTON — Not much has changed since the Seahawks last played the 49ers since not much time has passed.
When Seattle practiced for the first time this week Wednesday, it had been just 13 days since the 49ers’ 31-13 win over the Seahawks on Thanksgiving night at Lumen Field.
But Seahawks coach Pete Carroll insisted when he met the media before practice that the Seattle team taking the field for the rematch this Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara will be different from the one blown out on Thanksgiving.
Carroll reiterated that he felt the Seahawks were not as ready for the first game as they could have been due to the way he handled the truncated practice week before a Thursday game.
“I did not feel like we did a good job in the preparation in the short week with our team,” Carroll said.
Short weeks are tricky, and one reason the NFL tries in general to schedule division games is so that the teams involved already have a lot of familiarity, meaning the game-planning aspect of things isn’t impacted as much.
But short weeks also mean light workouts, with players still in recovery mode from the Sunday before — which for Seattle was a 17-16 loss at the Los Angeles Rams that was taxing mentally, physically and emotionally with the game coming down to a last-play field goal that missed.
Carroll said he tried to emphasize the physical restoration aspect of the week leading into the 49ers game, which he thinks backfired, especially with the team’s bevy of young players who are new to the short-week process.
“The first time you go through a really short week for young guys, you’re giving them a break and you’re trying to help them out physically so that the game before doesn’t factor in to the Thursday night game,” Carroll said. “And so we make some concessions, and that means you back off some and not everybody handles that well and I anticipated we would get the similar response that we’ve had over the years and we didn’t get it. So my bad. I made a mistake there.”
Carroll was referring to what has been a sterling Thursday record in his tenure in Seattle of 10-3 heading into the 49ers game.
But the Seahawks seemed out of the 49ers game before they even knew what hit them, falling behind 24-3 at halftime as Seattle was outgained 148-0 in the first quarter and 225-56 in the first half.
Carroll said he had no inkling of what awaited until game time.
“I didn’t feel it until we got out there,” Carroll said.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner wasn’t sure he really bought that explanation — or, at least, didn’t think Carroll should be heaping all the blame on himself.
“At the end of the day, rookie, veteran, you’re a professional and you need to be ready to play,” Wagner said. “As much as he might want to take that on him, it’s still on us to get out there and play. He’s not playing, as much as he sprints up in practice, we’re the ones out there.”
Certainly, the Seahawks have to hope that something as potentially easy to fix as a better week of practice can help prevent a repeat performance of the first half Thanksgiving night.
Because, good week of practice or not, the Seahawks will have a severe challenge on their hands against a 49ers team that has averaged 30 points a game in the past four contests against Seattle — all wins — and ranks third in the NFL in both yards per game (391.9) and points per game (29.3).
Seattle’s defense, meanwhile, remains 23rd overall at 353.7 yards per game and 25th in points at 24.2.
Seattle ranked as high as 12th in yards allowed after a Week 7 win over Arizona, part of a stretch of five in six games that moved the Seahawks briefly into first place at 5-2 entering November.
But since then, a trend has emerged.
When Seattle has played an offense ranking among the better in the NFL and with a proven QB, the Seahawks have struggled defensively.
Consider that Seattle’s six losses have come against Matthew Stafford (0-2), Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Brock Purdy and Dak Prescott, who led the Cowboys to a 41-35 win over the Seahawks last Thursday.
The only real outlier in the wins is the 37-31 overtime victory in Detroit in Week 2 when Jared Goff led the Lions to 418 yards but saw the Seahawks convert two turnovers into 14 points and the Seattle offense save the day.
Otherwise, Seattle’s wins have come against a pair of backup QBs in P.J. Walker (Cleveland) and Josh Dobbs (Arizona), as well as Andy Dalton, who despite his veteran status is also serving as Carolina’s backup, with the other two wins against Daniel Jones (Giants) and second-year player Sam Howell (Washington).
Now again comes Purdy, who leads the NFL in completion percentage (70.2), yards per attempt (9.6) and passer rating (116.1), among other glittering stats.
Purdy, of course, gets lots of help from his teammates and an innovative offense that features no lack of motion and other eye-candy designed to fool opponents and create openings for big plays.
Seattle will not only need to be better prepared but also far more mistake free than the penalty-filled effort against Dallas, in which the Seahawks gave Dallas’ offense six first downs with flags, including two on pass-interference penalties of 47 and 35 yards.
And it’s the thought that both better preparation and cleaning up penalties are in their control that the Seahawks say provide some optimism.
“I think we need to find a way to stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” Wagner said. “We’re playing some really good offenses, so some of the penalties at these costly times isn’t helping us. I feel like if we do a better job with that, I think that cleans up everything else, because we’re finding ways on some of the third downs to get off the field. A lot of the drives that are extended comes from our penalties. I think if we can calm that penalty aspect down, I think a lot of our game will clean up.”
Carroll likewise spun things optimistically.
“We have to be better, because we gave up way too many points the last two weeks in particular,” he said. “But again, we made enough plays in this past game to play a nice football game. We have to see if we can’t get right back, and we’re matching up with really powerful offenses. We went toe-to-toe with Dallas and didn’t get that done the week before. I think we’re rounding into it. … We’re encouraged by the fact that we think we can hang and we can do a nice job with our defense.”