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Sports >  Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks defense must limit ‘explosive’ plays to turn things around

Oct. 4, 2022 Updated Tue., Oct. 4, 2022 at 3:19 p.m.

Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (88) is tripped up near the end zone as during the Lions' loss to the Seattle Seahawks on October 2, 2022 at Ford Field.  (Tribune News Service)
Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (88) is tripped up near the end zone as during the Lions' loss to the Seattle Seahawks on October 2, 2022 at Ford Field. (Tribune News Service)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll knows what the Seahawks defense has to do.

“We’ve got to get rid of the chunk plays that change field position,” he said Monday following Sunday’s 48-45 win over the Detroit Lions.

But how to get that done?

Therein lies the challenge for Carroll and Seattle’s coaching staff, one that could determine whether the Seahawks can take advantage of a surprisingly prolific Geno Smith-led offense to make something more of this season than many expected in the wake of the trade of quarterback Russell Wilson.

What Carroll specifically means is trying to limit the number of what he defines as “explosive” plays.

During his stint as an assistant with the Minnesota Vikings in the ‘80s, Carroll was introduced to the concept that offenses had a much-higher percentage of scoring on any drive in which it got either a 12-yard run or longer, or a 16-yard pass or longer.

When Seattle won the Super Bowl in 2013 with one of the greatest defenses in league history, the Seahawks allowed 82 explosive plays over the 16-game regular season.

Four games into 2022, the Seahawks have already allowed half that many (41) including 12 against the Lions. Seattle also allowed 11 each to Atlanta and Denver and seven to the 49ers.

“What’s happening is the explosive plays are affecting drives as they always do,” Carroll said. “You have an explosive play, the odds of scoring points goes way up. And really, that’s the big concern right now.”

But solving that problem isn’t so easy.

Carroll said there was no one culprit Sunday as the Lions marched up and down the field, with seven plays of 21 yards or longer including an 81-yard catch-and-run by tight end T.J. Hockenson that was the longest play Seattle has allowed since Carroll took over as coach in 2010.

“It’s not any one thing,” Carroll said. “It’s not the coverage that we’re playing or the style of stuff [the Seahawks are playing] or any of that. We just have to execute better and not give up the yardage we’re giving up.”

Indeed, Carroll seems committed to the 3-4 defense the Seahawks have implemented this year, meaning for now there might be no significant changes to the scheme, though certainly there will be some tweaks.

The Seahawks will also continue to experiment with personnel, though, there might only be so much Seattle can do there. The Seahawks have little cap space left this year, just $1.8 million according to OvertheCap.com, and might not be as inclined to push money back into the future if an opportunity arises.

But Carroll said the team will continue to look at its current personnel to see whether changes are necessary.

“We’re still competing,” Carroll said. “We’ve still got some competition that’s why we are rolling guys around to see who’s starting. All of our guys are going to keep playing.”

Seattle did try a few things Sunday in the wake of the Atlanta game, using Ryan Neal both in three-safety sets — 17 times, according to ESPN — as well replacing Josh Jones at the end of the game.

Carroll said Neal could play more. “I’m anxious to see if we can continue to grow his opportunities,” which could mean both playing more in the three-safety role and potentially competing with Jones for the starting strong safety job.

Jones took it over when Jamal Adams was hurt in the second quarter of the opener against Denver but has had his struggles. He has nine missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, four more than any other Seahawk. He had two against the Lions — one on Hockenson’s 81-yarder.

Seattle also started Darryl Johnson at one outside linebacker spot ahead of Darrell Taylor. But Johnson played just 14 snaps before suffering what Carroll said Monday was “a significant” foot injury calling it “a stress fracture type of thing” that is “going to take a while” to heal.

That could mean Taylor goes back to start for now, or that rookie Boye Mafe, who played a career-high 32 snaps Sunday, could step in there, though both will play significantly. Carroll said 2019 first-round pick L.J. Collier could return this week from an elbow injury to add to the defensive line.

Sidney Jones IV, who was projected to be the starting left corner heading into the season before suffering a concussion early in camp, played 22 snaps in rotating in with Michael Jackson. Carroll said Jones could see more time, as well.

But Carroll seemed to caution that, in general, the Seahawks defense on the field now is the one that’s going to be on the field for the rest of the season and improvement is going to have to come from within.

“I think we just need to keep working and keep finding our way and making sure we are getting all the right info so we can make the right choices,” he said. “But now, most everybody that you have seen rotate are going to continue to do.”

And he’s hoping that somehow, the answers come soon.

Carroll said he hoped it won’t take as long for the defense to turn a corner this year as it has the past two years, when it had similar starts but improved in the second half.

“I’m waiting right now,” he said. “I’m waiting for it right now. I’m over the waiting part.”

Carroll would give game ball to offensive line

While quarterback Geno Smith and the team’s other skill players rightly got a lot of praise for piling up 555 yards Sunday on the Lions, Carroll said the key to it all was the play of the offensive line and rapidly maturing rookie tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas.

Smith was not sacked and hit just three times, and the line opened up huge holes in the second half for Rashaad Penny to finish with 151 yards rushing.

“It was really consistent pass protection-wise,” Carroll said. “… And as the game wore on, you saw us develop more opportunities in the running game. So they just did a really solid job. If we were giving out a game ball, I’d give it to the O-line.”

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