RENTON, Wash. – It’s a weekly ritual for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll to open his regular Wednesday news conference by referring to the upcoming game as “a championship opportunity.”
It’s Carroll’s way of reinforcing one of his long-held coaching strategies of not treating any game as more important than any other, saying he learned decades ago that the best way to assure consistent performance is to approach every game the same.
But if there was ever a time for Carroll to deviate just slightly from that belief and spend a little extra time making sure his team understands the urgency of the situation, it might be this week as the Seahawks travel to Santa Clara, California, to play the 49ers Sunday.
Seattle is 1-2, the first time the Seahawks have been below the .500 mark since the 2018 season when they were 4-5 after nine games.
That year serves as proof that teams can rally – the Seahawks won six of their last seven to crawl back into the playoffs. Seattle also overcame a 0-2 start in 2015 to get back to the playoffs.
But in neither year did the NFC West loom as tough from top-to-bottom as it does this year.
At the same time that the Seahawks and 49ers play, the Cardinals and Rams – each 3-0 – will battle in Los Angeles.
A Seahawks loss would mean that barring a tie in Los Angeles, Seattle would be three games back of the division leader and two back of everyone else.
That would then make a game Thursday night against the Rams nearly a must-win (assuming one doesn’t already feel that way about the 49ers).
Carroll insisted that what happened in Minnesota last Sunday – a 30-17 loss in which Seattle was outscored 27-0 in the final 41 minutes of the game – was not a result of being unprepared.
“We didn’t miss tempo, we didn’t miss focus,” Carroll said. “That’s not what happened.”
But even if practice wasn’t the issue last week, Carroll said he noticed a little different tenor this week.
“They’ve been very serious,” Carroll said. “Very tuned in. Our effort on the field has been as good as it’s been all year. Everybody feels it. You can just tell there’s another step to them that they picked up. It made for a really good week of competitive work.”
Seattle will need all of it to keep alive one of the more impressive Russell Wilson streaks that is on the line this week – he has never lost three in a row since taking over as Seattle’s quarterback in 2012.
What does Wilson think is the key to never having lost three games in a row?
“Not thinking about losing three in a row,” he said.
Wilson repeated this week what he says has always been the key to rebounding from tough defeats – staying the course.
“So many times, people will panic and will get worried and frustrated,” he said. “The best thing to do is stay the course, be honest, and figure out how we can get better, and then keep going for it. This league is challenging, every game is challenging. We play in arguably the best division in football. Every week is tough. We look forward to the challenges of it all.”
The biggest challenges reside on defense, which last week was torched 323 yards passing and three touchdowns by Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Seattle is allowing opponents to complete 70.7% of passes and does not have an interception this season and just five passes defensed.
Only one of those is from a cornerback. Seattle could make a change to try to get improved cornerback play by going with former Husky Sidney Jones on the right side instead of Tre Flowers – or at least splitting snaps some – and possibly at left cornerback with Bless Austin potentially getting some snaps in place of D.J. Reed.
Jones was acquired in a trade shortly before the season and Austin claimed off waivers from the Jets. Jones has 14 starts in his four-year NFL career with the Eagles and Jacksonville and Austin had 16 starts the last two seasons with the Jets.
“They’re getting closer (to play),” Carroll said Wednesday. “You’ll see how the week goes.”
But the run defense has also been an issue, allowing 155 yards per game as Seattle is giving up 440.3 yards per game overall, most in the NFL.
Frustration among defensive players ran rampant during and after the Minnesota game with both Flowers and fellow cornerback D.J. Reed talking later of scheme issues.
But defensive team captain Bobby Wagner insisted this week that there is no dissension among players, and no blaming of the coaches.
“At the end of the day, it starts with the players,” Wagner said. “Coaches try to put you in the best position possible, but when you run a play, as a player, you’re supposed to execute that play. We have not been perfect on all of our stuff, so I think that’s the growing pains of just getting better each week. Good teams get better. It’s very early in the season. It’s up to us and leadership and myself to make sure we communicate and make sure we play better. We will.”
Safety Jamal Adams spoke similarly, saying “Our mindset hasn’t changed. We understand who we are, and we’ve just got to get back to believing in that, everybody. Playing our style of play. Starting this week, things will change.”
Given the stakes at hand, they’d better.
Seahawks place Penny on IR, call up Ogbuehi. Parkinson
The Seahawks made a few moves Saturday to bolster their roster for the 49ers game while also downgrading defensive end Benson Mayowa to out with a neck injury and placing running back Rashaad Penny on injured reserve.
Going on IR means Penny must sit out the next three games. He has played in just one game this season, the opener at Indianapolis, when he aggravated a calf injury. Going on IR represents another setback in the career of the player Seattle took in the first round in 2018. Penny has played just four games since the start of the 2020 season and is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He will not be eligible to play until the Seahawks host New Orleans on Oct. 25.
Seattle activated offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi and tight end Colby Parkinson off injured reserve and each will be available Sunday. Ogbuehi could start, or at least play some, at right tackle with Brandon Shell out for another game with a sprained ankle.
Parkinson adds depth at tight end with Gerald Everett having been placed on the COVD-19 reserve list on Wednesday. Carroll said Saturday that Everett might be able to “materialize” in the Bay Area for the game if he got the required two negative tests 24 hours apart to be taken off the list. But adding Parkinson and Ogbuehi and setting the roster back at the maximum 53 would seem to preclude that.
Seattle also elevated receiver Cody Thompson off the practice squad for the second straight week.
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