Behind a career day from Chris Carson and two picks by a disrespected Earl Thomas, the Seahawks avoided the death knell that would have been an 0-3 start to the 2018 season.
After a week Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called “pretty challenging,’’ a 24-13 victory over Dallas on Sunday finally allowed him a chance for a little celebration and a few laughs.
“Who wants it to be dull, you know?’’ Carroll said in recounting one of the odder weeks in recent team history.
Dull, the Seahawks have rarely been.
But even by their standards, this was a strange one, with Earl Thomas admitting after the game he was intentionally sitting out practices due to his unhappiness over his contract situation, the Seahawks going from week-to-week wondering when linebacker Mychal Kendricks might be suspended for insider trading, and lots of rumblings about Russell Wilson and his fit with new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Not to mention Carroll’s somewhat self-induced controversy when he called tailback Chris Carson “a little gassed’’ following the defeat last Monday at Chicago even though he’d had just seven carries — something Carroll spent the rest of the week trying to explain.
“There was a lot of stuff that happened this week,’’ Carroll said before trying to spin it as only he can. “It was a very busy week. It was fun. That’s how it goes.’’
Somehow through all that haze, the Seahawks looked in the mirror Sunday and finally found themselves looking back, turning in a victory that resembled the glory days of the Legion of Boom era and also served as a template for how this team is going to have to win games.
“This is how we want to play,’’ Carroll said after a game in which the Seahawks ran the ball 39 times — one more than they had in the first two games combined — for 113 yards, which allowed Wilson to play his most efficient game of the season with a lot of quick, high-percentage passes. The defense, meanwhile, forced three turnovers (with the offense not committing any). And special teams helped force Dallas to start six of its first seven possessions inside its own 25.
“We couldn’t be any more specific about it,’’ Carroll said of the formula the Seahawks used Sunday. “We want to run the football, we want to play defense and we want to use the kicking game as much as we can to control the field. All those things happened today.’’
And thus, the Seahawks collected about as close to a must-win as a team can have in September. At 0-3, the season could have been over aside from musings about the future of Thomas and the team in general.
But at 1-2, the Seahawks can now look to a date against woeful Arizona next Sunday as a chance to get back to .500 and right in the thick of things.
“It has been a while,’’ Carroll said of being able to celebrate a victory, something Seattle hadn’t done in any capacity — regular season or preseason — since last Christmas Eve against these same Cowboys in Dallas.
Seattle committed to the run game from the start, with Carson getting the ball on four of the first five plays on his way to a career-high 32 attempts.
But it wasn’t until midway through the second quarter that the formula really kicked into gear.
Wilson capped a 64-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown on a no-huddle play, the kind of sequence Carroll later praised as Wilson showing his command of the offense – interesting praise given the talk last week about Wilson being a bit hamstrung by the new offense.
“He just handled every aspect of the game really well today,’’ Carroll said. “When he’s in control of it, we’re really at our best.’’
Wilson showed more of that later in the quarter when he hit Tyler Lockett on a 52-yard touchdown pass on the first play after the two-minute warning — one of five third downs the Seahawks converted in the quarter.
“We trusted him,’’ Lockett said of Wilson. “We knew that he was going to put us in a great situation and we just went out there and executed.’’
According to left tackle Duane Brown, trust also was important in reviving the running game.
Seattle managed just 2.9 yards per attempt with no run longer than 13. That won’t get it done against every opponent, but once Wilson’s two touchdowns in the second quarter had Seattle comfortably ahead, the Seahawks simply stuck with the run to maintain control of the ball and run the clock.
“(Schottenheimer) and the coaches trusted us and kept the faith in us to keep dialing it up even when we didn’t get much,’’ Brown said. “They just kept trusting us to keep dialing it up and we were able to dictate the game.’’
The run they might have liked best was an 11-yarder by Carson with three minutes left that picked up a third-and-11 and effectively ended the game as Dallas tried in vain to rally.
That followed an even more fitting coda — a final Seattle turnover forced by the only two members of the team’s Super Bowl-winning defense who were on the field Sunday as a pass was tipped by Bobby Wagner and intercepted by Thomas.
If this was it for Thomas, whose surprisingly candid postgame interview only seemed to add to the idea that he might not be long for Seattle, then he could hardly have gone out on a higher note. (Among other things, Thomas said a few Dallas coaches asked him if he was ready to be traded tomorrow, said he expects to be fined for sitting out practices and that if he has “even a headache” the rest of the season then he won’t practice.)
“I don’t know if it was (his last game),” Thomas said. “But I had a damn good time and I’ll go out like that if I have to.”
Carroll tried to evade the Thomas controversy saying, “I haven’t even talked to him about’’ missing practice Friday and that “there’s nothing even to tell you about right now. I’ll let you know next week.’’
Another week that promises, for better or worse, to be anything but dull.